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FIRST ISSUE: KORNBLUTH • JONES • DEL REY • DE CAMP 



EDITED BY JAMES BUSH 



FREE $5 95 RECORD 



BY 

DR. EDWARD TELLER 



Dr. Edward Teller, often called “the father of the H-bomb”, is 
one of the major nuclear physicists living today, and an ebullient 
and resourceful spokesman for the world of science. The combination 
makes this Spoken Arts record a lively and valuable experience for 
anyone interested in the sciences and their implications for the future. 
On one side. Dr. Teller discusses Einstein’s theory of relativity; on 
the other, the size and nature of the universe. Both talks were 
originally impromptu, but now they are recorded in hi-lidelity sound 
for your listening pleasure. Widely acclaimed by fellow scientists 
and editors, the Spoken Arts record will make a fine addition to any 
record collection. 

The record, all by itself, retails for $5.95. VANGUARD Science 
Fiction offers it free with every 20-issue subscription — total cost, 
six dollars. Bought separately, 20 issues of VANGUARD plus the 
Teller record would cost $12.95. Fill out the coupon below; or, if 
you don't want to deface Ed Emsh's cover, just send us your name 
and address on a slip of paper and add six dollars. The record 
will be sent you forthwith — to be followed by the next 20 issues 
of VANGUARD Science Fiction. 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 
BOX 188, PLANETARIUM STATION 
NEW YORK 24, N. Y. 

Please send me the free $5.95 SPOKEN ARTS record of Dr. Edward Teller. 
Enclosed is $6.00 for a 20-issue subscription to VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION. 

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VANGUARD 

science ficfion 



Vol. I, No. 1 June, 1958 

Novelettes 

SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 
REAP THE DARK TIDE 

Short Stories 

WHEN THE SHOE FITS 
THE STRAD EFFECT . . 

FAREWELL PARTY . . . 

Features 

IN THE BEGINNING James Blish 2 

WONDERS ARE MANY 1. Sprague de Camp 77 

THE TALES THEY TELL Lester del Rey 86 

COMING NEXT ISSUE 128 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION, Vol. I, No. 1. is published bi-monthly by Vanguard Science Fiction. Inc., 
50 Overlook Terrace, New York 33. N. Y. Single copy la 35 cents. Subscription 20 issues 38.00. Copyright 1958 
by Vanguard Science Fiction. Inc. Application pending for entry as second class matter at the poet office New 
York, N. Y. Editorial address: 703 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn 16. N. Y. The publishers assume no responsibility 
for unsolicited material. Plwiso enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope with all submitted material. All 
stories printed in tills magazine are fiction, any similarity between the characters and actual persons Is purely 
coincidental. Printed in the U.S.A. All subscriptions should be sent to Vanguard Science Fiction. Box 188, 
Planetarium Station, New York 21, N. Y. Editor James Blish. Publisher Larry Schecter. 



. . James E. Gunn 43 
Raymond F. Jones 58 
. . Richard Wilson 94 



A. Bertram Chandler 6 
. . . C. M. Kornbluth 99 



Cover by Ed Emsh illustrating s.o.s. planet unknown, 
Drawing for the Tales They Tell, by Kelly Freas. 



IN THE BEGINNING 



]p) icking a name for a new science 
fiction magazine is a tough job, 
especially if you’re trying to avoid 
duplicating any of the 6o-odd names 
that have already been used. We 
were happy with Vanguard, how- 
ever, particularly because it sug- 
gested die Earth Satellite Project, 
which we were then thinking of as 
man’s first real step into space. 

Then came the epochal an- 
nouncements of October 4, No- 
vember 3 and November 7, and 
Project Vanguard abruptly became 
Project Offguard. People who knew 
about our magazine promptly be- 
gan calling us to ask whether of 
not we planned to change die name. 

As you can see, we decided 
against it. To be sure, the associa- 
tions with the American satellite 
project are now a dubious asset; 
but we are not really in the satel- 
lite business. The name also sug- 
gests that the magazine hopes to 
push to the fore in its field. That is 
still our hope— so the name stands. 

We hope to print authentic 
science fiction: the pure stuff, of 
which we have seen all too little in 
recent years. Everyone has his own 
definition of what “the pure stuff’’ 
means. We subscribe to Theodore 
Sturgeon’s: 

A good science-fiction story is a 
story with a human problem, and 
a human solution, which would 
not have happened at all without 
its science content. 



Damon Knight has suggested 
that “speculative content” might be 
a better term than “science con- 
tent”, but speculation in a void is 
not for us. We would like to see 
the speculation in the story backed 
by a plausible rationale. If the hero 
glows green and doesn’t have to 
eat or breathe, for instance, we 
would like to see these facts ex- 
plained. We won’t accept them 
simply as “givens”, nor are we 
going to be satisfied with a token 
explanation (“ ‘Aha, I thought so,’ 
Dr. Zorki said. ‘Radioactive 
DDT.’ ”) 

The fact that the most success- 
ful magazine in this field prints 
the highest proportion of stories 
of this kind (though not as many 
as it used to) indicates to us that 
most science fiction readers share 
our preference for the genre. It is 
that preference, and that audience, 
that Vanguard hopes to satisfy. 

Vanguard is first and foremost a 
fiction magazine. Except for L. 
Sprague de Camp’s regular column 
and Lester del Rey’s book reviews 
(both exclusive to us), we will be 
devoting our pages to stories. 

We may print letters, if you 
write us some interesting ones. 
Primarily, however, we are in busi- 
ness to print stories— and, as an 
earnest of good intentions, we plan 
no editorials for future issues. 



-JAMES BLISH 



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SPOKEN 



707 

SIOBHAN McKENNA: IRISH VERSE AND 
BALLADS. The celebrated actress, star 
of The Chalk Garden, Saint Joan 
and The Rope Dancers, reads Irish 
verse with surpassing loveliness; 
poems by William Butler Yeats, bal- 
lads, folksongs and lyrics by James 
Joyce, James Stephens and others, 

705 

AN INFORMAL HOUR WITH S. J. PER EL- 
MAN. The one and only S. J. Perel- 
man brings to your ear such classics 
as And Thou Beside Me, Yacketing 
in the Wilderness; The Sweeter the 
Tooth, the Nearer the Couch; and 
Is There an Osteosynchrondroitri- 
cian in the House! 

721 

AN INFORMAL HOUR WITH ERSKINE CALD- 
WELL. The internationally known 
writer reading four of his most 
colorful short stories: Where the 
Girls Were Different, A Small Day, 
The People v. Abe Lathan, Colored 
and It Happened Like This. 



745 

ANN MORAY: GAELIC SONGS AND 
LEGENDS. These songs have a strange 
beauty, a very definite physiognomy 
and a very definite soul. The melo- 
dies are as purely perfect as melo- 
dies can be, and are narrated and 
sung to perfection in the native 
idiom of the singer’s homeland. 

716 

AN INFORMAL HOUR WITH J. B. PRIESTLEY. 

Who reads his essays on "Delight” 
(including Smoking in a Hot Bath, 
Long Trousers, The Mineral Water 
in Bedrooms of Foreign Hotels) in 
precisely the manner you would ex- 
pect that has made him famous here 
and abroad. 

726 

AN INFORMAL HOUR WITH DOROTHY 
PARKER. When she reads her story 
Horsie, and recites her bitter-sweet 
poems, you will be thrilled to have 
included inimitable Dorothy Parker 
among your guests ! 



Here’s what the critics have to say about SPOKEN ARTS: Thomas Lask 
in THE NEW YORK TIMES says: . . .“seems to be doing in a more com- 
prehensive manner what most other companies have done only sporadic- 
ally . . . the records can be enjoyed in the quiet of the living room, but it 
occurred to this listener that they would fit in nicely in discussion groups, 
classrooms, forums and the like.” Edward Tatnall Canby, in HARPER’S 
says : . . .“If this is a sample I am enthusiastic . . . the real thing, and tops 
of their kind.” John M. Conly, in HIGH FIDELITY says: . . ."Unalloyed 
delights.” Irviny Kolodin, in THE SATURDAY REVIEW says:... 
"thanks should be in order for the recording venture called SPOKEN 
ARTS . . . intimate . . . beautifully focused sound.” 



ALL RECORDS §5.95 EACH 



ARTS 



710 

GOLDEN TREASURY OF JOHN BETJEMAN. 

“Mr. Betjeman is one of the most 
original poets now writing. Their 
(the poems’) metrical skill, their 
wit, their sharp observation, all de- 
light the reader; these poems are in 
a peculiar degree memorable.” The 
Spectator 

734 

POEMS OF T. S. ELIOT. The Waste Land 
created a revolution in modern 
poetry and will remain as a classic 
of the 20th Century. It is read by 
Robert Speaight, Eliot’s noted asso- 
ciate and interpreter . 



714 

DR. ROBERT M. HUTCHINS. The former 
President of the University of Chi- 
cago, now head of the Fund for the 
Republic, shows his brilliance as an 
educator in this discussion on “The 
Promise of Education.” 



733 

THE GEORGICS OF VIRGIL. Translated 
and read by the English poet, C. Day 
Lewis, this Latin masterpiece 
startles us by its freshness and 
timeless lyrical quality. 



703 

DR. FRANK c. BAXTER. From the Uni- 
versity of Southern California, Dr. 
Baxter’s “campus” has spread all 
over the country. Here in “The Na- 
ture of Poetry” you understand why 
he is considered one of the great 
creative teachers of our day. 

704 

ARTHUR MILLER. The Pulitzer prize 
winner in a provocative discussion 
of attitudes towards character por- 
trayal, with readings from his 
“Death of a Salesman” and “The 
Crucible.” 



LAWRENCE COMPANY 

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New York 17, N. Y. 

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SOS, PLANET 



S he died slowly, and her people 
fought for her life— and for 
their own lives— to the very end. It 
was like, almost, the inevitable 
death of a human being from old 
age— the breakdown of one func- 
tion after another, culminating in 
the final, lethal convulsions. Yet 
she was not old, as men measure 
the age of their ships. She was just 
...unlucky. The minor, undetect- 
able flaws resulting from careless 
workmanship during her building, 
the other flaws introduced during 
routine repairs and overhauls had 
all, somehow, conspired in a snow- 
balling effect and sequence of 
breakdowns and disasters to kill 
her. 

Most of her people died with her 
—slashed to ribbons when the 
madly spinning flywheels of the 
Mannschenn Drive unit shrugged 
off the makeshift, jury-rigged con- 



trols (the controls proper had been 
destroyed by the fire some few days 
earlier); or asphyxiated when the 
shards of jagged metal, impelled 
by the centrifugal force of the ex- 
ploding gyroscopes, sliced through 
airtight bulkheads and shell plat- 
ing. Two more had died of their 
own success in repairing her five 
emergency venturis, when, by one 
of those failures of coordination to 
which men are prone when their 
environment is disintegrating, the 
rockets were test-fired while the 
troubleshooters were still outside. 
Their deaths, it subsequently turn- 
ed out, had been for nothing; the 
plasma tanks had sprung, allowing 
most of the reaction mass for the 
rockets to evaporate into space. 
There was no longer enough left 
to move her usefully. 

Only one officer — the assistant 
purser— survived; he had been on 



6 



It was a curiously Earth-li\e world the castaways found 
and like Earth, its real savagery was hidden. 



UNKNOWN 

by 

A. Bertram Chandler 



his way from the control room to 
the engine room with a message, 
the intercommunication system hav- 
ing broken down. Seven passengers 
survived— shut in one miraculously 
unholed section of the ship by the 
slamming emergency airtight doors. 

Kennedy was the assistant pur- 
ser’s name— Ralph Kennedy. He 
was a tall young man, skinny 
rather than slim, with a high 
bridged, bony nose, fair hair that 
tended to recede at the temples, 
ears that protruded more than 
slightly. The horn-rimmed spec- 
tacles— he would not wear contact 
lenses— magnified his rather pale 
grey eyes. It may have been his 
uniform that now lent him his air 
of command— then, again, it may 
not. This much is certain— he was 
meeting this major crisis with a 
coolness that he had not, until this 
instant, known that he possessed. 



He was, by virtue of his rank, 
king— king of a little world that 
was a wedge shaped segment of a 
disc seventy five feet in diameter, 
ten feet in thickness. He had rea- 
son to suppose that the rest of the 
disc— as well as of the rest of the 
ship, of which the disc was only a 
small part— was uninhabitable. The 
fact that the automatic doors had 
shut argued that there was hard 
vacuum on the other side of them. 

He stood there, swaying slighdy, 
the magnetized soles of his shoes 
holding him to the deck, waiting 
for his subjects to say their say, to 
make their petitions. He looked at 
them— the four men, the three 
women. He wondered if he looked 
as frightened as they did. He 
thought, I should look more fright- 
ened. Theirs is the fear of the un- 
known-mine is the fear of the 
known. And what I know is worse 



7 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



8 

than any imaginings. 

It was Major Fuller who broke 
the silence. He thrust his corpulent 
body to the forefront of the little 
knot of passengers, demanded, as 
he would have demanded an ex- 
planation from some erring N.C.O., 
“What’s happened? Hey, young 
man, what’s happened?” 

“I think,” said Kennedy cau- 
tiously, “that it’s the Mannschen 
Drive unit. You’ve all seen it, of 
course— that affair of spinning, pre- 
cessing gyroscopes right in the heart 
of the ship. The controls of it were 
giving trouble. They must have 
failed. Metal— the metal of the fly- 
wheels— can stand just so much. 
When the revolutions exceeded a 
certain limit the wheels either 
broke from their bearings, or 
exploded.” 

“How do you know it wasn’t the 
Pile?” barked the Major. “Shouldn’t 
you be checking for radio-activity?” 

“If it had been the Pile,” said 
Kennedy, “we shouldn’t be discuss- 
ing it. Besides, you will notice that 
the emergency, battery-powered 
lights aren’t burning; we’re still 
using current drawn directly from 
the Pile.” 

“Who’s in charge?” snapped 



Fuller. 

“I am, Major.” 

“What! A mere purser’s pup!” 

“That will do,” said Kennedy 
sharply. “I want you all to know 
diat I am in charge of this section 
until relieved by somebody senior 
to myself. It may well be that I am 
in charge of the ship— or what’s 
left of her. If anybody here has ex- 
perience or qualifications that will 
make him more suitable for the 
job . . .” 

There was silence. 

Fuller would have liked to have 
stepped forward, thought Kennedy, 
but he hasn’t the guts. After all — 
he’s Commissariat, not Combat. 
Gladcn could, perhaps, but he’s 
too lazy. He’ll be content to write 
a novel around this incident when 
—or if— we’re rescued.' (And yet, 
Kennedy reminded himself, Gladen 
had been, once, Second Mate of 
a trading schooner on Procyon III, 
or Atlantia, as the colonists call it. 
It wouldn’t pay to underrate that 
experience now.) Tolliver will 
never dare say boo to any authority 
—he’s too much of a mouse, too 
much under the thumb of that big, 
fat wife of his. And Grant, like all 
newly married men, wants just to 



A. BERTRAM CHANDLER is the pen-name of a British seaman 
far better hjiown by this name ( which first appeared in science 
fiction in 1944) than by his own. Chandler is also almost alone 
among well-kjiown s-f writers in that he has yet to produce a 
novel ; but one of his longest stories, “Giant Killer,’’ is an 
acknowledged classic. 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



9 



sit in a corner and hold hands with 
his wife. The women? Mrs. Tol- 
liver— the typical, suburban house- 
wife. . . . Mrs. Grant— not one yet, 
but she will be (if she’s lucky 
enough to come through this) .... 
Miss Weldon— what use will a dress 
designer be in a lifeboat? 

“So I take it,’’ said Kennedy, 
“that nobody wants my job. All 
right. I’ll tell you what I’m going 
to do. I’m going to get a spacesuit 
out of the locker, and I’m going to 
use the suit radio to see if there's 
anybody else alive in the ship— the 
Drive Unit’s not working now, so 
that’ll be possible. Then I’m going 
out into the axial shaft and going 
through the ship, looking for sur- 
vivors. I’ll find out if any of the 
boats are still usable at the same 
time. I’ll try to find out where we 
are.” 

“You’re leaving us here,” said 
Mrs. Tolliver, her voice accusatory. 

“Somebody has to go,” said 
Kennedy. 

“And somebody should go with 
you,” remarked Gladen quietly. 
“I’ll be pleased to— after all,” he 
added, grinning mirthlessly, “it’s all 
material.” 

“How many times have I heard 
that, Stephen?” asked Miss Weldon. 

“You don’t have to listen,” re- 
plied the writer. “Now, Kennedy, 
I suggest that after we get suited 
up, somebody — what about you, 
Susan?— puts on a helmet to keep 
in radio touch with us. We can re- 
port on what we find, and if we 



get into trouble we can yell for 
help. Doubtless Major Fuller will 
lead the charge to our rescue.” 
“There’s no need to be funny, 
Gladen,” barked Fuller. 

“Was I being funny, Fuller? If I 
wasn’t, it doesn’t say much for your 
military reputation.” 

“Let’s get these suits on,” said 
Kennedy. 

He went to the locker that stood 
in the alleyway, pulled out three of 
the stiff suits. One he handed to 
Gladen, the other he got into him- 
self. Then, before putting on his 
own helmet, he showed Miss Wel- 
don how to operate the tiny radio 
in the helmet of the third suit. He 
was amused by the contrast— the 
ugly, utilitarian headpiece topping 
her slim elegance. She guessed his 
thoughts, smiled at him through 
the thick, transparent plastic. He 
saw her lips moving, but heard 
nothing. 

He put on his own helmet. 

“If anybody saw me now ,” he 
heard her say, “they’d know that I 
wasn’t a hat designer.” 

“Your hair,” he said, “looks bet- 
ter without a hat, anyhow.” 

“Come off it, young Kennedy,” 
Gladen’s voice crackled in the hel- 
met speaker. “This is no time to 
be praising our Susan’s auburn 
tresses.” 

“No,” agreed Kennedy. “It’s 
not.” He raised his voice slightly. 
“Kennedy here, assistant purser. I 
am in Section Nine, Segment A. 
There are eight of us here— seven 



10 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



passengers and myself. Is there any- 
body else . . . alive? Come in, 
please. Come in.” 

He repeated the message a sec- 
ond time, and a third. 

“It looks as though we’re the 
only ones,” said Gladen gravely. 

“Looks like it,” he said quietly, 
“We’re going out now, Miss Wel- 
don. We’ll keep you informed.” 

“Do just that,” she replied. 

The little airlock leading into 
the axial shaft reminded Kennedy 
unpleasantly of a coffin. And yet, 
when he was through into what 
was left of the ship, he regretted 
having left its cramping confines. 
Space is so vast and a ship is so 
small— and when that ship is no 
more— as Gladen phrased it— than a 
drifting colander space seems vaster 
still. Here and there, in the twisted 
alleyways, lights were still burning 
—but they were dim and pale 
against the stars that gleamed 
through the rents in the tortured 
metal. And there was a sun ahead 
of them— neither of the men could 
see it direcdy yet but its glare 
struck through the pierced hull, 
was reflected aft from bright metal 
surfaces. 

Kennedy and Gladen made a 
methodical search. They pulled 
themselves aft along the axial shaft 
and then, section by section, worked 
their way forward. They learned, 
quite early, that it was better to 
ignore the bodies. Some of them 
had been ripped or smashed, others 
burst by their own rapidly expand- 



ing internal pressure. None of them 
was pretty. 

They came at last to the control 
room— or what was left of it. With 
the darkest filters of their helmets 
in place, they stared for a while at 
the glaring sun, at the planet that 
showed slightly to one side of it. 

“What star is it?” asked Gladen 
at last. 

“I don’t know,” admitted Ken- 
nedy. “The ship was not in normal 
space-time until the Drive blew up 
—and the explosion might have 
thrown us anywhere or, even, 
anywhen. As you see— the auto- 
matic log and the three dimen- 
sional charts have been destroyed. 
And the computor. If that were 
working we could feed what data 
we have into it and get some sort 
of an answer.” 

“What’s this?” asked the writer. 
“A sextant— although not quite the 
kind that I was used to on Atlantia. 
I wonder if I can use it wearing a 
spacesuit . . .” 

He took the instrument out of its 
case, held it as close to his eye 
as the helmet would permit. He 
looked at the reading. He raised 
the sextant to his eye again, his 
gloved fingers working clumsily on 
the micrometer. Again he checked 
the reading. 

He said, “It’s time we were get- 
ting out of here. The way the diam- 
eter of that sun’s increasing, we’re 
falling into it — and not slowly, 
either. That planet may be capable 
of supporting life.” 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



11 



“The boat in the Section Seven 
blister was intact,” said Kennedy. 
“Miss Weldon! Tell the passengers 
to get into their suits and to pre- 
pare to abandon ship! We’ll be 
back for them in a few minutes.” 

“I’ll tell them,” said Susan Wel- 
don. “I’ll tell them. But I don’t an- 
ticipate any wild enthusiasm.” 

There was not, as Susan Weldon 
had forecast, any wild enthusiasm. 
The Grant couple actually said 
they were prepared to stay in wreck 
until picked up— Kennedy had to 
explain, in words of one syllable, 
firstly that the wreck was falling 
into the sun and secondly that it 
would be impossible to get out a 
distress signal until the boat was 
out and clear from the ship. He 
did not add that the chances of the 
signal’s being picked up by any 
vessel capable of reaching them in 
less than a matter of years were 
remote in the extreme. 

Then, both Gladen and the girl 
were inclined to be too bossy, too 
inclined to try to prevent the others 
from transferring their most cher- 
ished treasures from their cabins to 
the boat. Kennedy intervened. 
“The boat,” he said, “is officially 
capable of carrying sixty people. 
We shall be landing on an un- 
known world— we may And that 
it is one of our colonies, on the 
other hand we may And that it has 
never even been surveyed. Any- 
thing— but anything— could be use- 
ful.” 



“Then I’ll bring my typewriter 
and a supply of paper,” said 
Gladen. 

“Why not?” 

> “And I’ll bring my portable elec- 
tric sewing machine,” said Susan 
Weldon. 

“Oh, and could I bring my wash- 
ing machine?” asked Mrs. Tol- 
liver. “It’s in the baggage hold, I 
was taking it for our new house 
on Caranthia . . .” 

"No," said Kennedy. “We have 
no time to lose. The stuff in cab- 
ins doesn't matter, but we can’t af- 
ford to scour the ship for extras. 
Into your spacesuits now, all of 
you. As soon as you’re sealed I’m 
going to open both airlock doors.” 

"Do as the man says,” added 
Gladen. He seemed to be extract- 
ing enjoyment from the situation. 

Kennedy fumed and Adgetted 
while the passengers got suited up. 
They were so slow. Neither he nor 
(iladen had been able to compute 
the rate of the vessel’s fall into 
the sun of this planetary system, 
but the purser knew that there was 
no extreme emergency on that 
score. What did have him worried 
was the distinct possibility that the 
ship would collide with the planet 
that they had seen, the planet to 
which he intended to take the life- 
boat. 

At last the passengers were 
ready, and Kennedy made a rapid 
but thorough inspection of each of 
the spacesuits. He had done this 
sort of thing often enough at boat 



12 



VANGUARD SCIENCE. FICTION 



drills, but had never dreamed that 
the day would come when he 
would have to do it in, as he put it 
to himself, playing-for-keeps cir- 
cumstances. 

When he was satisfied he went 
to the little airlock, broke the seals 
on the valves and opened them. 
Then he was able to open both the 
doors. 

With Gladen’s and Susan Wel- 
don’s help he organized the people 
into a human conveyor belt— it was 
easier loading the boat that way 
than having everybody struggling 
through the axial shaft loaded with 
his own personal possessions. He 
felt happier when he had all the 
survivors into the boat and the 
doors dogged tight. He allowed 
himself to hope that the boat had 
not been afflicted by the same curse 
as had been the mother ship— and 
was harsh with Tolliver when- he 
voiced the same thought. 

The launching of the boat was 
automatic. Kennedy waited until 
the passengers were all strapped 
into their seats, made sure that his 
own belt was properly adjusted, 
then pressed the red launching but- 
ton. For a second he thought that 
there was something amiss— per- 
haps there was— and then the rock- 
ets fired. He was slammed back 
into the padding and inflicted a 
painful bite on his tongue. 

He remembered all that he had 
learned at the Academy. He ex- 
erted his strength, raised his hand 
against the acceleration, cut the 



Drive. He wasted no time, as the 
others were doing, in heaving grate- 
ful sighs of relief at the return to 
the comfort of free fall. His first 
job, his most important job, was 
to get himself oriented. 

The ship was still close, but was 
receding visibly. Looking at her, 
Kennedy was surprised that any- 
body had survived. She reminded 
him of a journey that he had made 
through desert country on one of 
his holidays, when he had seen, and 
shuddered at the sight, the bleached 
bones, picked clean of all flesh, of 
migrating animals that had failed 
to make it to the next water hole 
and had perished of thirst. Not 
only was the ship dead but, with 
her shell plating torn away and her 
structural members exposed, she 
was like a skeleton. 

The sun was right astern. Ken- 
nedy adjusted the viewport dim- 
mers, then actuated die gyroscope 
to swing the boat. Soon he was able 
to pick out the planet— of the ap- 
parent size of a melon, it was. He 
fired the rockets again, killing the 
velocity of the boat away from the 
not very distant world. He said, to 
nobody in particular, “The auto- 
matic pilot can do the rest, until 
we hit atmosphere.” 

There was one thing left to do. 

The assistant purser pressed the 
button that would put the auto- 
matic radio distress call out. He 
waited until it had been sending 
for ten minutes, then switched to 
manual. His gloved hand was not 



SOS, PLANliT UNKNOWN 

too clumsy on the key. 

“S O S,” he sent. “S O S. Surviv- 
ors from Beta Pavonis, in lifeboat, 
approaching planet of unknown 
sun. No navigators among us. De- 
struction of ship occurred on twenty- 
third day of voyage from New Tas- 
mania to Hunteria. I can give no 
further data. SOS. SO S.” 

“Do you expect a reply?” asked 
Gladen. 

“I’d like to get one,” said Ken- 
nedy, “but I’m afraid I don’t ex- 
pect one. Anyhow, the monitors 
will pick up this call— eventually. 
Too, once we’ve landed I’ll run the 
transmitter once a day at the same 
time.” 

“So you intend to land?” asked 
Susan Weldon. 

“What else is there? These boats 
are equipped to give occupants the 
maximum chance of survival. We 
have weapons. We have fishing 
gear. We have seeds, even. We 
have a well stocked medicine chest, 
and all the necessary books.” 

“Including one on obstetrics?” 
asked Gladen. 

Kennedy felt himself blushing. 

“Yes,” he admitted. 

“Never mind all this,” blustered 
Fuller. “What do we do now?” 

“Wait,” said Kennedy. “Wait for 
all of two days— and perhaps a bit 
extra. It’ll be safe enough for all 
of us to take our suits and helmets 
off now— although we’d better put 
them on again before we hit at- 
mosphere.” 

“And if the atmosphere’s poison- 



13 

ous,” asked Tolliver, “shall we have 
enough fuel to take off again?” 

“No,” admitted Kennedy. 

“Then there’s not much sense in 
putting the suits back on,” said 
Tolliver. 

They waited. 

They squabbled and bickered, 
and even the Grants were heard to 
snap at each other. They took turns 
at studying, through the telescope, 
the world towards which they were 
heading. There was water, and 
there was cloud, and there were 
polar icecaps. There were areas of 
brown, and areas of yellow, and 
areas of green. The certainty grew 
that this world would support life 
—their sort of life. 

Then came the time when they 
were able to circle the world in a 
five hundred mile orbit. Kennedy 
was not willing to decide upon a 
landing place himself, so called 
upon the others to suggest and to 
advise. Some favoured desert, some 
the sea. In the end it was Gladen 
who said, “You’re skipper of this 
craft, Kennedy. You make the de- 
cision— and if it’s a wrong one you 
won’t be the first captain who’s 
been a bum guesser. And, right or 
wrong. I’m backing you.” 

“And I,” said Susan Weldon. 

“Don’t hurry him into it,” 
growled Major Fuller. 

“I’m not,” said Gladen. “But 
none of us here seems qualified to 
advise Mr. Kennedy— and he’s the 
only one who’s capable of landing 



14 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



this boat in one piece.” 

“I hope,” said Tolliver, 

“Shut up!” snarled his wife. 
“The situation’s bad enough now 
without you making it worse with 
your wisecracks.” 

“I can hope, can’t I?” he de- 
manded plaintively. 

“What hope is there?” burst out 
Mrs. Grant. “For any of us? It’s 
all right for the rest of you— but 
I’m going to have my first child in 
that . . . wilderness! As for you,” 
she screamed at her husband, “you 
said that everything would be all 
right— and now look what you’ve 
got me into!” 

“In the Army,” wheezed Fuller, 
“we . . .” 

“Damn the Army,” flared Grant. 

“You see,” said Gladen. “If we 
hang here in this orbit much longer 
there’ll be murder done. There’re 
one or two I shouldn’t mind mur- 
dering myself.” 

“Not me, I hope, Stephen?” 
asked Susan Weldon. 

“Yes— even you at times, my 
dear.” 

“Don’t call me dear!’’ she 
snapped. 

“Quiet!” shouted Kennedy. Then 
—“We’re going down. I’m going 
to land at the edge of that green 
plain, by the river. If any of you 
have a better idea, let me hear it. 
But make it quick.” 

There was silence. 

“All right. Fasten seat belts. 
Stand by for deceleration.” 

“Get it over with,” said Gladen. 



“What I am doing? Don’t dis- 
turb me.” 

Kennedy fired a tentative blast 
from the starboard steering jet, 
then another. The craft turned, 
slowly at first, then with increasing 
speed. Kennedy had to correct with 
a blast from the port jet. 

The boat was proceeding stern 
first now, with her rockets pointed 
in the direction of her flight. A five 
seconds’ blast from the main ven- 
turi killed her momentum. It was 
obvious, even without looking at 
the instruments, that she was fall- 
ing. 

Feeling increasingly confident, 
Kennedy turned the craft again. 
Rather incredulously he thought. 
I'm good. I’m in the wrong branch 
of the Service. I should have been 
executive ... 

“If you’re coming in too fast,” 
said Fuller, “you’ll tear the wings 
off us.” 

“It’s too late to worry about that 
now,” replied Kennedy. 

But l am so worrying, he 
thought. / wish that that old fool 
would keep his mouth shut. 

Then there was sound— a thin, 
high keening, dropping slowly 
down the scale from the supersonic. 
There was heat, engendered by 
friction. 

I should have made them put 
their spacesuits on, thought Ken- 
nedy. They \eep out the cold— 
they'd beep out the heat. 

Cautiously, he manipulated the 
controls. He felt the pressure 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



15 



against his back and seat as the 
ship lifted. The keening noise died 
away. 

Down we go again, thought Ken- 
nedy. 7 hope that this slows us 
down sufficiently . . . 

The fourth attempt did — and 
then Kennedy was concerned more 
with the location of his proposed 
landing site than with the actual 
handling of the boat. “They fly 
themselves,” he had been told dur- 
ing his lifeboatman’s course. 

He found the sharp peak, thrust- 
ing up from the dense forest along 
the edge of the plain. He located, 
again, the broad, silver ribbon of 
the river. He put the craft into a 
tight spiral, using the peak as a 
beacon. He lost altitude fast, but 
speed not fast enough. 

But he was impatient to get it 
all over and done with. He knew 
that he had one ace up his sleeve— 
the so-called “fool’s rockets,” the 
forward pointing tubes, each witli 
its charge of solid propellant, that 
were supposed to be the last resort 
of the incompetent pilot. 

They’re there to be used, he 
thought. 

The long grass was close now, 
ripples running over it under the 
wind. Kennedy skimmed the 
river, was barely conscious of the 
yellow beach that flashed by under 
him. He turned the ship, wrench- 
ing her around brutally so that she 
was heading up wind. He pressed 
the firing stud of the “fool’s 
rockets.” 



He heard screams behind him. 
He heard something breaking. 
Then, as his safety belt snapped, 
he was thrown forward against 
the instrument panel. He did not 
feel the ship tilt and topple, he did 
not hear the horrid screech as the 
starboard stub wing was torn off; 
he was unconscious. 

“He’s coming round,” he heard 
somebody say. 

He opened his eyes. 

He saw first of all a blue sky, 
witli one or two small, fleecy 
clouds. Something large and black 
was (lapping slowly across his field 
of vision, screaming discordandy as 
it flew. He smelt air that was alive, 
not the fetid, circulated and recir- 
culated artificial atmosphere of the 
l«»at. He sniffed the tang of smoul- 
dering grass appreciatively. 

"Wake upl” somebody was say- 
ing. 

I le shifted his eyes, saw the lean, 
intent face of Susan Weldon above 
him. Then Gladen moved to stand 
beside her. 

“There’s nothing broken,” said 
the writer. “And, as far as I can 
gather from that book in the medi- 
cine chest, you haven’t got con- 
cussion." 

“Thanks,” said Kennedy. 

“Don’t thank me— thank your 
duck skull.” 

“Help me up,” said the assistant 
purser. 

The man and the girl raised him 
to a sitting posture. He looked at 



16 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



the wreckage of his first and last 
command. Her vaned tail was in 
the air, her nose was in the pit that 
she had dug for herself. Around 
the rim of the pit the grass still 
smouldered. By the wreck sat the 
other passengers— Major Fuller, the 
Grants, the Tollivers. It seemed to 
Kennedy that they were looking at 
him with hostility. 

“I’m afraid,” said Kennedy, “that 
I made a mess of things.” 

“So what?” demanded Gladen. 
“We’re all of us alive. Nobody’s 
injured, even. Oh, I know that they 
think that you’re the worst atmos- 
phere pilot unhung — but none of 
them volunteered to do the job.” 
“I was saving fuel,” said the 
assistant purser, “so that we could 
use the boat for exploring. But 
she’ll never fly again.” 

“We stay in one place,” said 
Gladen, “and that’s all to the good. 
We keep the automatic beacon 
working— it seems to have survived 
the crash. We’ll set up our camp 
here, and when the rescue ship 
homes on the beacon, its crew’ll 
have no trouble finding us.” 

“It’s as good a place as any,” said 
Susan. “We have the river for fresh 
water and, perhaps, food. I’ve seen 
some things like crayfish. We have 
the forest for timber to build our 
houses— and it’s a safe bet that some 
of the birds and animals there are 
edible . . .” 

“Some of them might view us 
in the same light,” said Gladen. 
“Don’t be such a damned pessi- 



mist, Stephen. Then, as I was say- 
ing, we can clear ourselves a few 
acres of grass and plant our 
seeds . . .” 

“Quite the pioneer woman, aren’t 
you, darling?” scoffed the writer. 
“This is a far cry from the Rag 
Trade!” 

“Shut up!” she snapped. 

“Yes, Gladen— shut up!” repeated 
Kennedy. “Miss Weldon was offer- 
ing constructive suggestions — and 
all you could do was sneer.” 

“Were you ordering me around, 
young Kennedy? I’d like to point 
out that your pretty uniform ceased 
to have any significance once we 
touched— and a gentle touch it was, 
too— the surface of this planet.” 

Kennedy got to his feet, helped 
by the girl. 

He said, disappointed that his 
voice was not as steady as it should 
have been, “I’d like to point out, 
Gladen, that there are still a lot of 
things to do that only I am quali- 
fied to handle. After they have been 
done I’ll relinquish my command 
willingly. Until such time I’ll stay 
in charge.” 

“All right. Take charge.” 

“Somebody has to,” said Ken- 
nedy, glaring first at Gladen and 
then at the group loafing by the 
wrecked boat. He walked, stum- 
bling slightly in the long grass, to 
the wreckage. “You,” he said. 
“Fuller, Tolliver, Grant— get that 
fire out.” 

“Why?” asked Mrs. Tolliver. 
“It’s not doing any harm.” 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 

“I wasn’t addressing you, 
Madam. But you and Mrs. Grant 
can get back into the boat and pass 
out four of the shovels that you 
will find in the after compartment.” 

“Were you ordering me?" asked 
the big, untidy woman. 

“Yes” 

“In the Army, young man,” be- 
gan Fuller, “a junior officer . . .” 

“This is not the Army, Major. 
In any case, as far as the Inter- 
steller Commerce Commission is 
concerned. I’m the only officer pres- 
ent. And I want this fire out, be- 
fore it spreads.” 

“We should have thought of it,” 
admitted Tolliver. 

“You should have— but you 
didn’t.” 

“Into the boat, dear,” said Tol- 
liver to his wife. 

“I’ll not stand for this,” she 
flared. 

“You will!” he snarled— and there 
was such venom in his voice that 
she hoisted herself clumsily into 
the airlock door and vanished. Mrs. 
Grant followed her. 

“Stay inside,” Kennedy told 
them when they had passed out 
the shovels. “I’ll want some more 
stores out shortly.” 

Working hard, if not very effi- 
ciently, they extinguished the blaze 
before it reached serious propor- 
tions. Kennedy climbed into the 
boat then, climbed aft to the stor- 
age compartment. He found the 
tents, and the cylinders of com- 
pressed carbon dioxide that would 



17 

inflate them. He got out the solar 
power screens, and the batteries. 
When they were passed out to 
those outside, he set the women to 
work stripping the chairs inside 
the little rocket— their cushions 
were so designed as to serve as beds 
in the tents. While they were so 
employed, he broke out the arma- 
ment. 

There was a point fifty calibre 
Schuster automatic rifle, with a 
thousand rounds of ammunition. 
There were two point twenty Rem- 
ingtons, with four thousand rounds. 
There were two twelve gauge Win- 
chester repeating shotguns, with six 
thousand rounds. There were six 
of the deadly Minotti fifty shot 
automatics, whose makers said, 
with justification, that one of the 
tiny, exploding slivers properly 
placed could stop a charging bull 
elephant. 

There were four long-bows, and 
a good supply of arrows. Kennedy 
hoped that the party would not be 
on this world long enough to have 
to fall back on the ancient, but still 
effective, weapons. 

He belted on a holster with one 
of the automatics, hesitated be- 
tween the Schuster and a Reming- 
ton, finally slung the lighter weap- 
on over his shoulder. The others, 
with the exception of Gladen, 
looked at him askance when he 
emerged from the ship. Gladen 
grinned. 

“So you’re going to enforce your 
authority by force of arms,” he 



18 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



remarked. 

Kennedy kept his temper. 

“There are five more pistols in- 
side, by the airlock door. If any of 
you can use them, you’re welcome 
to belt them on. There’s a point 
fifty rifle, and another point twenty, 
and two shotguns. These weapons 
are here for two reasons— for our 
protection and to provide game for 
the pot. I think that at least one 
of us— until we’re sure that there 
are no dangers here— should go 
armed all the time.” 

“I wish that I had your imagi- 
nation,” said Gladen, half seriously. 

“It’s not imagination. It’s just 
knowing all the things could pos- 
sibly go wrong, and then doing 
one’s best to cope with them. Mean- 
while— do any of you know how to 
get these tents up?” 

Nobody did. 

Kennedy took of? his weapons, 
handed them to Fuller. 

“You’re sentry,” he said. 

“When I was in the Army, young 
man . . .” 

“. . . Majors never did sentry 
duty. But even Majors must know 
something about firearms. Just be 
careful about opening fire— there’s 
always the chance that you might 
antagonize some local intelligent 
life form.” 

“If any,” said Gladen. 

“Oh, shut up, Gladen. Lend a 
hand with this, will you?" 

There were four tents, each of 
them neatly packaged. Kennedy 
broke the fastenings on the first 



one, pulled out the valve. He con- 
nected it to the cylinder of carbon 
dioxide, gave the wheel a quarter 
turn. The tent filled slowly, swell- 
ing and rustling. When it was fully 
expanded it was a gleaming, plastic 
igloo, a fifteen foot diameter hem- 
isphere. There were translucent 
panels in its sides to admit the pas- 
sage of daylight, and there were 
even opaque curtains inside that 
could be let down to cover these. 
Flared tubes— each of which could 
be sealed if necessary— through the 
double skin allowed for ventilation., 

Kennedy checked the netting and 
the guy ropes to see that there was 
no chafe, then drove home die pegs 
in a circle around the tent, made 
all secure. 

He left the Grants, the Tollivers 
and Susan Weldon to set up the 
other tents; he, aided by Gladen, 
busied himself with the solar power 
screen. This was not arduous work 
—the only part of the job that made 
any real demands upon his energy 
was the adjustment of it so that it 
would drag the maximum power 
output from the westering sun. 
Once this was done the efficient, 
almost intelligent little azimuth 
motor would keep the screen on 
the most advantageous bearing un- 
til sunset. By that time, Kennedy 
hoped, there would be enough 
power stored in the batteries to suf- 
fice for cooking of the evening 
meal and for lights during the 
hours of darkness. The lifeboat’s 
storage cells could have been used 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



19 



for both purposes— but the space- 
man wanted to be self sufficient as 
soon as possible. 

Somebody was calling, “Smoko! 
Smoko!" . 

He looked up from the screen 
controls, saw that it was Susan 
Weldon. She was standing in the 
doorway of the first erected tent. 
She was rattling a spoon inside a 
cup. 

“I boiled the kettle,” she called, 
“and made tea for us all! This is 
our house warming!” 

“Tea!” grimaced Gladen. “Surely 
there’s something better, Kennedy.” 

“There is,” said the assistant 
purser. “It’s in the medicine chest. 
And it’s staying there.” 

Kennedy walked to the tent. 

“What water did you use. Miss 
Weldon?” 

“The water from the ship’s tank, 
of course.” 

“Just as well. We still have to 
test the river water. Boiling would 
kill any micro-organisms, but there 
may be mineral poisons.” 

“How will you test it?” asked 
Gladen. 

“There’s a kit for doing so in 
the medicine chest. But I could do 
with a good cup of tea, and I’m 
having it. Major Fuller— that will 
do the sentry duty for the time 
being. Tea break!” 

It was comfortable inside the tent 
—but, of course, the tent had been 
designed for comfort as well as for 
its other qualities. The scene, 
thought Kennedy, was absurdly 



domesticated— the seven people sit- 
ting on their cushions around the 
spread cloth, the steaming teapot 
and hot water jug, the cups, the 
saucers, the sugar bowl, the jug of 
evaporated milk. On no world, he 
thought, have we yet found any- 
thing to take the place of tea. 1 
hope that we find some herb here 
that will be a good substitute . . . 

“What now, Kennedy?” asked 
Fuller. 

“We’ll get our camp set up for 
the night. We’ll work out a watch 
list. We’ll get as good a night’s 
sleep as possible, so that we’re 
ready for some exploring tomor- 
row.” 

“A watch list . . .” said Mrs. 
Grant. “You really think that there 
might be dangerous animals here?” 

“Or savages,” said Gladen, grin- 
ning again. 

“Or savages,” agreed Kennedy. 
“Until we know more, we have to 
be prepared for anything ." 

“Are we — the women, I mean— 
among the watchkeepers?” asked 
Susan Weldon. “I can use a 
Minotti.” 

“No,” replied Kennedy definitely. 

“What old-fashioned ideas you 
have,” remarked the writer. 

“I’m keeping watch with Bill, 
anyhow,” said Mrs. Grant defiantly. 

“Let her,” said Gladen. “Two 
pairs of eyes are better than one. 
Will you keep watch with me, 
Susan?” 

“I will not" she said. 

“We’ll make out the roster later,” 



20 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



said Kennedy briskly. “The next 
item on the agenda is accommoda- 
tion. We have two married couples, 
one unmarried woman, three un- 
married men. We have four tents. 
You, Mr. and Mrs. Tolliver, take 
one of them. You, Mr. and Mrs. 
Grant, take one of the others. You, 
Miss Weldon, will have a tent to 
yourself. Major Fuller, Mr. Gladen 
and myself will share the fourth 
one. It’s lucky that we have the 
equipment for over seven times our 
number of people.” 

“It could be a pity,” said Gladen. 
“Anyhow— if you’re lonely, Susan, 
I’ve no doubt that friend Kennedy, 
here, could put us through a form 
of marriage sufficiently legal to 
stick.” 

“I shall be quite happy by my- 
self,” said the girl— and Kennedy 
was relieved to hear her say it. He 
was, somehow, disappointed when 
she added, “I always have been.” 

“The most pressing item on the 
agenda now,” said Kennedy, “is 
digging the trench and rigging the 
screens for the latrine.” 

“The man has no romance in his 
soul,” said Gladden. 

Kennedy had the fourth spell of 
duty— 2400 hours to 0200 hours. All 
watches owned by the party had 
been set at 1800 hours at sunset— 
the lifeboat’s chronometer, of 
course, had not been tampered 
with; the automatic distress signal 
would be sent out at six hourly 
intervals by ship’s time, Greenwich 



Mean Time. 

Kennedy wondered, when 
Gladen called him, if this planet 
did, in fact, have a period of 
roughly twenty-four hours axial 
rotadon. It was one of the things 
that he could have checked during 
their approach to it from space— 
if he had know' enough. 

He got dressed by the dim light 
of the battery-powered lamp, mov- 
ing carefully so as not to disturb 
Fuller— although if the fat Major 
were a light sleeper his own snor- 
ing must surely have awakened 
him. He belted on the pistol. When 
he was outside the tent Gladen 
handed him one of the point 
twenty rifles. 

“The watch is yours,” said 
Gladen. 

“I wonder if it is midnight,” said 
Kennedy. “There’s a sort of mid- 
nightish feel in the air . . .” He 
looked up at the sky, wishing that 
he knew enough astronomy to haz- 
ard a guess as to the location of 
this planet. There was a Milky 
Way— but it was subtly different 
from die Milky Way as seen from 
Earth. There was a sprawling con- 
stellation that could have been a 
distorted Orion, and another one 
that wound sinuously across the 
black sky like a huge serpent, with 
a blazing star cluster at its head. 
There was no moon— but that he 
had already known. 

“Anything to report?” he asked. 

“No. I walked over to the edge 
of the forest, but I heard no noises 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



21 



indicative of large animals. Then 
I stood for. a while by the river— 
there were quite a few splashes, but 
small ones. We must break out the 
fishing gear tomorrow.”. 

“You should have stayed by the 
camp,” said Kennedy. 

“I’m old enough,” replied 
Gladen, “to use my own discretion 
—and I used it. Goodnight to you.” 
“I wish that you weren’t such a 
cantankerous bastard at times,” said 
the assistant purser. 

“You know,” said the writer— 
and Kennedy could see his teeth 
gleaming in the near darkness— 
“there’re times when I wish the 
same myself. Goodnight again.” 
“Where are you going? That’s 
Miss Weldon’s tent.” 

“Don’t be such an innocent,” re- 
plied Gladen. 

Kennedy, feeling more than a 
little sick, walked away from the 
tents. Something made him turn. 
The light in the girl’s tent snapped 
on, at full brilliance. Gladen— a 
black silhouette— was still in the 
doorway. Kennedy saw him turn 
abruptly, walk back to the tent he 
shared with Fuller and Kennedy. 
He was whistling. The assistant 
purser recognized the tune — it was 
one of the Twentieth Century 
songs that had, of late, been re- 
vived. It was Lay That Pistol 
Down, Babe . . . 

I wonder . . . thought Kennedy. 
1 wonder . . . After all, if we’re 
to be on this world for any length 
of time . . . 



Should I walk up and down? he 
asked himself abruptly. Or should 
I stay still? If I walk I make a 
noise, and let anything creeping up 
on the camp know where I am. If 
I stand still— well, a wild animal 
would hear me breathing, or scent 
me, so what’s the odds? I should 
have rigged floodlights— and made 
a glare that would have attracted 
savages (if there are any) from 
miles around. The others have the 
best of it— they sit back and criti- 
cize, but none of them’s willing to 
take over command . . . 

Anyhow, if we are on this world 
for any length of time . . . Gladen’s 
her type really, that’s the trouble . . . 

Suddenly he snapped out of his 
revery, whipped the pistol from its 
holster with his right hand, 
switched on the torch that he car- 
ried in the other. 

“Put that light out,” said Susan 
Weldon rather crossly. “Do you 
want to blind me?” 

“I thought you were sleeping,” 
he said foolishly. 

“Sleeping, the man says. Sleep- 
ing— with wolves pawing at the 
door of my tent.” 

“Only one wolf. I saw him slink- 
ing away with his tail between his 
legs.” 

“Not quite,” she said. “I’ll say 
this for Stephen— he took it all in 
good part. After all— he didn’t want 
me quite badly enough to have a 
shooting match with me.” 

“Just as well,” said Kennedy. 
“It’d have been a nuisance if the 



22 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



tent had got punctured.” 

‘‘I notice that you weren’t wor- 
ried about either Stephen or myself 
getting punctured,” she said tartly. 

“The tent is stores,” he pointed 
out. “You and Stephen are only 
passengers.” 

“I see,” she said. “I’m pleased to 
learn that you do regard me as a 
human being. I was beginning to 
think that you were regarding me 
as just an item on the store list, or 
something.” 

“I’ve always thought rather 
highly of you,” he said. 

“Too highly, perhaps. Will it be 
all right to smoke?” 

He considered the matter. He 
said at last. “I have noticed a few 
things like fireflies flitting around, 
and some of them have a ruddy 
light. Our cigarettes could be mis- 
taken for fireflies by any potential 
enemy . . 

“That’s as good an excuse for a 
smoke as any,” she said. 

He pulled the packet of ciga- 
rettes out of the breast pocket of 
his shirt, found the filter ends by 
touch, put them in his mouth. He 
inhaled sharply. He handed one of 
the little cylinders to the girl. She 
did not draw her hand back when 
his touched it. 

He said, “We have to remember 
that our supplies are not unlim- 
ited.” 

“And that the duration of our 
stay here might well be,” she added. 

The ruddy illumination of the 
cigarette showed him her face- 



thin, serious, the eyes seeming 
larger and darker than they were 
in actuality, the mouth wide, with 
a potentiality of generosity. 

“That’s a fact that we have to 
face,” he said. 

“That’s a fact that I am facing. 
I’m a young woman and, they tell 
me, attractive. I’ve never had much 
time for men— there’s always been 
my career. But I can’t see much 
scope for my talents on this planet. 
So ” 

“So,” he asked, “what?” 

“So I have to think of somebody 
permanent. Somebody who’ll be 
my protector, and the father of my 
brats. And there’s not much choice. 
Even if Grant and Tolliver were 
free I’d never consider either of 
them— I’ve never fancied suburbia. 
Fuller’s out. It’s between you and 
Stephen. 

“Oh, I like Stephen. At times 
he’s fun. But there’s that laziness 
of his, and his failure to take the 
right things— by which I don’t 
mean what the Tollivers and the 
Grants consider the right things— 
seriously. He could be a leader— but 
he’ll never take the responsibility. 
He’s a born barracker.” 

“So I’m elected,” said Kennedy 
quietly. 

“So you’re not elected. Not yet. 
After all, Ralph, there’s no mad 
rush. I like you— but whether or not 
I like you enough to live with you 
is another matter.” 

“I rather hope . . .” began Ken- 
nedy. “Oh, damn it. How shall I 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



23 



put it? I hope that you do make 
the decision in my favor.” 

“I rather hope,” she said, “that 
I do.” 

She threw her cigarette away, 
then reached up and plucked his 
from his mouth. She took his face 
between her hands, raised her lips to 
his. It was a brief kiss— yet enough 
to stir desire. She broke away from 
him. 

“Goodnight,” she said. “And I 
mean goodnight.” 

“I’ll be looking forward to say- 
ing goodmorning,” he replied. 

“By the morning,” she laughed, 
“I might have decided in favor of 
polyandry.” 

“I make the laws here,” he re- 
minded her. 

“Then you’d better take a dim 
view of the sentries philandering 
whilst on duty. Goodnight again.” 

She vanished into her tent. 

Kennedy was amazed when he 
looked at the luminous figures on 
the dial of his watch and saw that 
his spell of duty was up. He 
walked to the Grants’ tent, 
scratched on the plastic screen that 
had been let down to cover the 
doorway. There was no answer. He 
lifted the screen then, went inside. 

“Grant,” he called softly. 
“Grant!” 

He called again, louder. 

There was a flurry of motion on 
the .makeshift bed. Kennedy 
glimpsed pale limbs and breasts, 
dimly luminous in the starlight. He 



envied Grant, and wished that his 
own future marital state were more 
certain. He backed out of the tent. 

After a few minutes Grant and 
his wife joined him. Kennedy 
handed over the watch, making 
sure that the man and the woman 
were both armed and knew how 
to handle their weapons. 

“And pass on to Fuller,” he said, 
“and tell him to pass it on to 
Gladen, that I want the exact time 
of sunrise noted. We must get 
some idea of how time runs -on 
this planet.” 

“I don’t think that time’s all that 
important,” murmured Mrs. Grant. 

“I do,” said Kennedy, with un- 
necessary sharpness. 

“There’s no need to talk to Rose 
like that!” snapped Grant. 

“Sorry,” said Kennedy insin- 
cerely. 

He walked to the tent, lifted the 
flap, went inside. Fuller was still 
snoring. Gladen was asleep— but 
restless in his slumber, twisting and 
muttering. 

“Susan,” Kennedy heard him 
mumble. “Susan, please . . 

What widi the pair of them, 
thought Kennedy, I shall be lucky 
to get any sleep at all. I wonder if 
Susan would let me in to her tent? 
But I forgot. I must set the good 
example. I’m the Captain— Acting, 
Temporary, Unpaid . . . 

He undressed, not bothering 
overduly with quietness. He got 
under his own blankets. In spite of 
Fuller’s snores, of Gladen’s mutter- 



24 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



ings, he dropped immediately into 
unconsciousness . . . 

. . . and awoke with the sound 
of the scream still ringing in his 
ears. 

Susan, he thought. If that swine 
Gladen . . . 

But it was Gladen who had 
snapped on the light, who was step- 
ping into his shorts and buckling 
on his pistol belt. Kennedy didn’t 
bother to dress— just grabbed his 
pistol and a torch and ran outside. 
Fuller was still snoring. 

The beam of another torch hit 
him in the face, travelled down his 
body. 

“Ralph! What are you doing?” 

“Thank God,” he said. “Thank 
God that it wasn’t you!” 

“That it wasn’t me who what'?" 
she asked. 

“Screamed. But what’s hap- 
pened?” 

“Nothing,” she said. “Well— al- 
most nothing. The pair of lovebirds 
sat down just outside my tent and 
started chirruping away to each 
other, and I was just about to get 
up to tell them to pitch woo some- 
where else when I heard her say, 
‘Oh, isn’t h c cute!’ He said, ‘He’s 
like those animals we saw in 
Australia, last time we were on 
Earth . . . What did they call them? 
Koala bears, wasn’t it? Here— 
Teddy, Teddy, Teddy!’ And she 
called, ‘Teddy, Teddy, Teddyl’ 
And then she screamed.” 

“You’re not being paid ten cents 
a word for this,” said Gladen. 



“Come to the point, darling, before 
our nudist friend freezes to death.” 
“All right. As far as I can gather, 
this Teddy Bear of hers made a 
sudden, vicious and unprovoked 
attack and bit her on the neck. It’s 
no more than a scratch. She’s back 
in her tent now, and old Mother 
Tolliver is flapping around her like 
a hen with only one chick— and 
that one at death’s store. I was 
coming to call you.” 

“I’d better see her,” said Ken- 
nedy. 

“You’d better get dressed first,” 
Gladen told him. “Poor Rosie’s had 
enough shocks for one night.” 
“While I’m getting dressed,” said 
Kennedy, “slip into the boat and 
go to the medicine chest. Bring out 
one of the tubes labelled All-Pur- 
pose Antibiotic. The bite may be 
as trivial as Susan says— but it may 
be badly infected.” 

“It is extremely unlikely that the 
micro-organisms of any one planet 
will be able to harm any alien spe- 
cies,” said Gladen. 

“I know— but whoever made the 
regulations concerning how medi- 
cine chests should be stocked didn’t 
make ’em for fun. Get cracking!” 
“Ay, ay, sir" said Gladen. 

Susan followed him into the tent, 
talked to him while he dressed. 

“Could it be serious?” she asked. 
“After all— there are such things as 
poisonous snakes . . .” 

“Oddly enough,” he said, “the 
ability to kill by poison seems to 
be confined entirely to reptiles and 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



25 



insects. I see no reason to assume 
that this planet is any exception to 
the general rule.” 

“There’s one exception on 
Earth,” she said. “A mammal, and 
it lives in the same country as the 
Koala bears that the Grants were 
yapping about. The platypus.” 

“It’s got a spur, if I remember 
righdy,” admitted Kennedy. “But 
it doesn’t bite its victims. Let’s go.” 

“What about him?" asked Susan, 
pointing one slim foot in the direc- 
tion of the sleeping Fuller. 

“Let him sleep on.” 

The Grants’ tent was commo- 
dious enough— but now it seemed 
crowded, largely because of Mrs. 
Tolliver. She was one of those 
women always determined to make 
the most of any minor household 
calamity, one of those to whom 
there is almost no dividing line be- 
tween a cut finger and decapita- 
tion. Grant was trying to get his 
well meaning visitors away. 

“There’s no danger,” he kept 
saying. “There’s absolutely no dan- 
ger. If there was any poison in the 
wound there’s none now— I sucked 
it out . . .” 

Kennedy pushed his way past the 
Tollivers. 

“Let me see,” he said. 

“If you must," growled Grant un- 
graciously. 

The assistant purser knelt down 
beside the girl. She was half sitting, 
half lying on the bed, her back 
propped with extra cushions. She 



was pale, but seemed to be in no 
pain. 

“Do you mind if I look?” asked 
Kennedy. 

“It’s only a scratch,” she said. 

The wound, indeed, was little 
more than a scratch, no more than 
a faint red line marring the smooth 
whiteness of her neck. There were 
no signs of either swelling or in- 
flammation— but it was early yet for 
either to put in appearance. 

Gladen knelt beside Kennedy. 

“Here’s that goo of yours,” he 
said, handing Kennedy the tube. 

“Thanks. Now, Mrs. Grant, I’m 
afraid that this is going to sting a 
little— but I can guarantee that it’s 
sudden death to any and every 
micro-organism known to medical 
science . . .” 

“It does sting,” said Mrs. Grant 
in a tone of hurt bewilderment. 

“I suppose you know what you’re 
doing,” said Grant. 

“Poor dear,” said Mrs. Tolliver. 
“Warm water was all it needed.” 

“You stay here, with your wife,” 
said Kennedy to Grant. “The rest 
of you— and that means you, too, 
Mrs. Tolliver— get torches. We’ll 
see if we can find the little brute 
that bit Mrs. Grant. It may be 
lurking around still.” 

They found the little brute with- 
out much trouble. It was about five 
yards from Susan Weldon’s tent. 
It was dead — killed, thought Ken- 
nedy, by the blow that Grant had 
dealt it when it attacked his wife. 

It was as much like a Koala bear 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



26 

as anything, but its fur was yellow 
and it had a bushy tail. It could 
not have died at once, thought 
Kennedy; the front of its body, 
from the mouth downwards, was 
wet and bedraggled. It must have 
sat there in the grass, choking and 
strangling, coughing its life out. 

Now I’m getting sentimental 
about it, he thought. 

He asked Gladen to hold the 
torch while he examined the crea- 
ture’s open "mouth. It had teeth— 
small ones. There were no signs 
of poison fangs. 

"She must have been petting it,” 
he said. “She must have touched 
it in a tender place, and it went for 
her, the same as a cat or dog will.” 
He looked at his watch. “You 
might as well take over until four, 
Tolliver. Call Fuller then. And 
don’t forget about the time of sun- 
rise, if the sun comas up while 
you’re on.” 

He picked up the animal by the 
tail. 

“A fur coat for me?” asked 
Susan. 

“Maybe. One day— if we can trap 
enough of these. I just want to keep 
it so I can have a better look at 
it in daylight.” 

Daylight came, and found a 
party of humans reluctant to arise 
to greet the dawn. Kennedy was 
as reluctant as any of them— but 
dared not show it. He almost drove 
the men to the part of the river 
that he had decided would be their 



bathing place. Susan, he was 
pleased to see, did the same regard- 
ing the women, not forgetting to 
complain that the ladies’ bath was 
downstream from the men’s. 

Then there was breakfast, which 
they enjoyed in the open air. The 
powdered egg made a palatable 
enough omelette and the tea, 
brewed over an open fire instead 
of being made in a conventional 
pot, was good. Kennedy watched 
Rose Grant carefully, was pleased 
to see that she ate with a good ap- 
petite. The mark on her neck had 
almost vanished. 

“What now?” asked Gladen, en- 
joying his after-breakfast cigarette. 

“The camp chores we leave to the 
women,” said Kennedy. “You, Ma- 
jor Fuller and Mr. Tolliver, will 
be camp guards. Gladen, Grant and 
myself will take a little walk into 
the forest.” 

“I think I should stay with Rose,” 
said Grant. 

“Mr. Grant,” said Susan, “doubt- 
less both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. 
Gladen would prefer to stay here 
with me— but they recognize that 
there’s important work to be done.”* 

“Talking of work,” said Gladen, 
“I could be making a start on my 
next novel.” 

“Don’t be silly, Stephen. You and 
Ralph are going out like two Stone 
Age types, to return loaded with 
meat to fill our bellies and furs to 
cover our nakedness. Talking of 
furs — where’s our little friend of 
last night, Ralph?” 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



“In the tent still. I’ll bring him 
out.” 

He did so. 

“I still think he looks cute,” said 
Rase Grant. “I still think that you 
shouldn’t have hit him so hard, 
Bill.” 

“I wish that I’d hit him harder,” 
growled Grant. 

“Well,” said Kennedy. “We’re 
none of us biologists, unluckily. I 
suggest that you, Major, give this 
unfortunate animal a burial with 
full military honors. And I sug- 
gest, too, that if you sec any more 
of ’em lurking around you open 
fire at once.” 

“I’ll have my fur coat yet," said 
Susan. Then— “Hey! What about 
the washing up?” 

“The Stone Age wife’s privilege,” 
said Gladen. “Where’s Grant van- 
ished to?” 

“They’re saying goodbye in their 
tent,” said Kennedy. 

“The dears!’ gushed Mrs. Tol- 
liver. 

“Of course, they haven’t been 
married long,” said her husband. 

“Grant!” shouted Kennedy. 
“Grant!” 

“All right, I’m coming. What’s 
the rush?” 

“We’ll try to be back at twelve 
hundred hours,” said Kennedy to 
Fuller. “That is, according to the 
time that our watches are set at 
now. If anything happens—// any- 
thing happens— loose off a shotgun; 
they make the biggest bang. We’ll 
do the same. But if we do it, don’t 



27 

come a-running unless you’re sure 
that the women arc safe.” 

“They’ll be safe with the Army ” 
said Fuller. 

“This is the Merchant Navy,” 
said Kennedy foolishly. 

“Well I know it,” replied the 
Major. 

“Look here. Fuller,” said the as- 
sistant purser, “if you want to take,* 
charge— take charge. I’m getting’ 
tired of all this barracking.” 

“It’s your job,” said Fuller. 

“Oh, all right. Where’s Grant? 
Everybody got everything — weap- 
ons, knives, machete, compass? 
Then let’s go.” 

The three men walked along the 
river bank, towards the forest. 

“There’s no planet I’ve seen,” 
said Gladen, “as much like Earth 
as this one. This grass that we’re 
walking over, for example. Those 
reeds . . .” 

Grant pulled himself out of his 
sulking fit. 

“Given almost identical condi- 
tions — mass, atmospheric content 
and density, humidity, temperature 
range and all the rest of it — evolu- 
tion is bound to run on similar 
lines.” 

“Not necessarily,” said Gladen. 
“Were you ever on Altair IV? It 
has all the conditions for Earth- 
type life forms— but every living 
thing has its chemistry based on 
silica.” 

“For all we know,” contributed 
Kennedy, “the same might be true 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



28 

here, and everything might be 
quite inedible.” 

“I don’t think so,” said Gladen. 
“The plants haven’t that peculiar 
crystalline shine.” He stopped, bent 
down, plucked a blade of grass, put 
it to his mouth, nibbled it. “I’ve 
never tasted better!” 

“Be careful!” snapped Kennedy. 
“That stuff may be a deadly poi- 
son!” 

“And so what? Somebody has to 
be the guinea pig— and it might as 
well be me. I would suggest some- 
body recommend that lifeboats 
carry white mice or some similar 
animal— they’d be useful for the 
testing of local foodstuffs. H’m. 
Those berries look interesting.” 

“Don’t be a damned fool!” said 
Kennedy. 

“ ‘What care I how fair she be/ 
If she be not fair to me . . .’ ” re- 
plied the writer. 

“What are you yapping about?” 
asked Grant. 

“None of your business— yet.” 

“And just what do you mean by 
that, Gladen? Are you insinuating 
that because the Weldon woman 
kicked you out of her tent last 
night you’re thinking of making a 
pass at Rose? How big a fool can 
you be? She’d never look at an- 
other man but me.” 

“ ‘Methinks the gentleman doth 
protest too much,’ ” replied the 
writer. “All right, Grant, don’t go 
flying off the handle. I’ll quote 
from the works of my old cobber 
Bill Shakespeare as much as I 



please.” He turned to Kennedy. 
“Has the sobering thought ever 
crossed your mind- that if we do 
have to build a new civilization 
here, I shall be the sole repository 
of Earth’s greatest literature? I 
think you’d better organize a sup- 
ply of flat slabs of granite for me, 
and a hammer and chisel.” 

“Oh, shut up!” snarled Grant. 
A flight of birds flapped over, 
low, uttering discordant cries. Ken- 
nedy, who was carrying the shot- 
gun, raised it— then let the muzzle 
of the weapon drop. 

“What’s wrong?” asked Gladen. 
"Coming over all humanitarian? 
Going to start a local branch of 
the Anti-Blood Sports League?” 
Kennedy blushed. 

“No. I remembered that we 
agreed that a shot was to be the 
signal that there was something 
amiss. If I bred— I’d alarm them 
back at the camp.” 

“I’d like to see fat Fuller charg- 
ing out like the legendary U. S. 
Marines in full cry,” commented 
Gladen. “All the same, young Ken- 
nedy, that was a rather back- 
handed system of signals you ar- 
ranged.” 

“I know. Why didn’t somebody 
point it out at the time?” 

“Grant was too busy— and my 
mind was on other things. Fuller 
and Tolliver don’t count. Or can’t 
count. I often wonder which of the 
two is the dimmer.” 

“I suppose that if I weren’t here,” 
said Grant, “you’d be discussing 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



29 



“Of course, dearie. There’s noth- 
ing that Ralph and I like more 
than an all-girls-together session 
over the tea cups, with our hair 
down and our feet up. We have 
so much in common, haven’t we, 
Ralph?’’ 

“I’ve more in common with 
Grant at the moment,” snapped 
Kennedy. “You may be enjoying 
this cats’ corner, but I’m not. And 
we’re supposed to be exploring, not 
gossiping.” 

“Yessir. Ay, ay, sir. Can I come 
back next trip, sir?” 

“All right,” laughed Kennedy. 
“You win. But let’s pay a little 
more attention to the matter in 
hand.” 

“There’s something in the grass,” 
said Grant. “An animal . . 

“A bird,” corrected Gladen. 

“It’s dead,” added Kennedy. He 
wrinkled his nose. “It’s very dead.” 

“We can look at it, anyhow,” 
said Gladen. 

“As long as we don’t touch it. 
The thing’s probably crawling with 
bacteria.” 

“Of all shapes, colours and sizes 
—not to mention the odd virus or 
two. Ugly looking brute, isn’t it? 
Like an Earthly vulture— only more 
so. I’m sorry that I have to keep 
on comparing things with their 
1'erran counterparts— but, after all, 
I was brought up there.” 

"Local boy makes good,” sneered 
< irant. 

“Precisely. At least I’m not liv- 



ing on the money my father made 
as a New Morocco white slave 
trader.” 

“He was a theatrical agent,” said 
Grant. 

“Let’s look at this bloody bird 1” 
shouted Kennedy. 

They looked at the bird. At first 
it seemed just a bird— large, limp, 
bedraggled. It was Kennedy who 
found the long stick and turned 
it over; who, by dint of poking 
and prodding, managed to stretch 
the wings to their full, four foot 
spread. It was then that they saw 
the perfectly formed claw on each 
wing tip. 

“This must be a primitive world,” 
said Kennedy slowly. “There may 
be dinosaurs— or things like ’em— 
in the forest.” 

“Could be,” murmured Gladen. 
“Could be— but I don’t drink so. 
That mammal that Grant killed 
last night didn’t seem any more 
primitive than, say, an Earthly dog 
or cat.” 

“But these claws . . .” 

“What about them? Oh, I know 
that on most planets with anything 
approximating to Earth-type fauna, 
Mother Nature, in her alleged wis- 
dom, has allowed the wing tip 
claws to vanish. Once the birds 
could fly properly, once they had 
no need to make wild grabs for 
branches when they stalled, the 
claws were of no further use. But— 
any bird, no matter how well it 
flies, could always use an extra set 
of claws. Our friend here could 



30 



VANCUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



handle things without having to 
stand on one leg to do it. It’s the 
same with tails. We should never 
have been allowed to lose ours 
when we came down from the 
trees. A prehensile tail would be of 
great value to civilized man.” 

“Oh, shut up!” snarled Grant. 

Gladen and Kennedy glared at 
him. 

It was Kennedy who said, 
“What’s wrong, Grant? You don’t 
look well.” 

“I don’t feel well. This headache. 
You two carry on— I’ll get back to 
the camp.” 

“You might pass out on the way,” 
said Kennedy. “We’ll come with 
you.” 

In spite of Grant’s indisposition 
they made the journey back in 
shorter time than it had taken them 
to come as far as they had done. 
As they approached the tents, the 
wrecked lifeboat, they saw only one 
figure, pacing slowly back and 
forth. 

“It’s Tolliver,” decided Kennedy. 
“The women must be in the boat 
getting a meal together. Fuller, if 
I know him, is snatching a nap. 
He’ll be quite pained when we 
catch him out.” 

“Or he’s in the galley,” said 
Gladen, “helping with lunch and 
having an occasional nibble of 
what’s going to keep his strength 
up. ‘In the Army,’ he mimicked, 
‘u'e always built up a reserve of 
strength against any contingency.’ ” 

“It’s time we started living off 



the country,” said Kennedy. 

“Stop worrying, Ralph.” 

“You’re back early,” called Tol- 
liver. He walked to meet them. 
“I took the fishing tackle to the 
river. I found some worms to use 
as bait. I caught three fine seven 
pounders— they look as near to 
trout as to be their twin brothers.” 
“Where’s Rose?” demanded 
Grant. “Tell her that I’m back and 
that I’m going to lie down.” 

“She’s in your tent, I think. She 
wasn’t feeling too good herself.” 
“I’ll get you something from the 
medicine chest,” said Kennedy to 
Grant. 

He saw that the young man was 
staggering. He and Gladen walked 
with him to the tent. 

The flap was down. It was se- 
cured from the inside. 

“Rose!” shouted Grant. “Open 
up! It’s me!” 

“She must be asleep,” said 
Gladen. 

“Rose! Open this damned flap!” 
Grant tore himself from the sup- 
porting arms of Kennedy and 
Gladen. His strong fingers caught 
a fold in the material of the flap, 
ripped viciously. Grant made a 
noise that was half way between 
a snarl and a scream, that was like 
nothing human. He charged into 
the semi-darkness. Kennedy follow- 
ed— and tripped and fell headlong. 
Gladen stumbled over Kennedy’s 
body. There was the staccato rattle 
of a Minetti automatic, and another 
scream from Grant. 



S O S, PLANET UNKNOWN 



31 



Kennedy scrambled to his feet, 
pulled his own pistol from its hol- 
ster. He looked in horror at the 
tableau— at Grant, sprawled on the 
floor, the wound in his belly spill- 
ing blood and shredded intestines, 
at Rose Grant, half naked, 
sprawled obscenely across the bed, 
one side of her head blown off, at 
the fat Major, whose condition of 
undress would in other circum- 
stances have been ludicrous, stand- 
ing there with the still smoking 
automatic in his hand. 

“I didn’t mean to kill her,” he 
was babbling. “But I had to shoot 
him in self defense!” 

“Drop the gun,” ordered Ken- 
nedy. Then, to Gladen, “Stand by 
the door and keep the women and 
Tolliver out — they must have heard 
the shooting.” 

He waited until Fuller had 
dropped his pistol, then stooped 
and picked up the pair of shorts 
that he had tripped over in the 
doorway, threw them to the fat 
man. 

“You’d better put these on,” he 
said. “If you’re going to die— and 
I’m the law here— you’d better do 
it with some semblance of dignity.” 

Fuller dressed. With the resump- 
tion of his clothing something of 
his old manner came back. 

“Let me explain, young man,” 
he began. 

“An explanation is just what I 
do want. If Grant had killed you 
it would have been justifiable homi- 
cide. But you killed Grant — and his 



wife.” 

“Susan,” Gladen was saying at 
the doorway, “there’s nothing you 
can do. Go away, please— and take 
Mr. and Mrs. Tolliver with you. 
We’ll tell you all about it later.” 

“He came at me like a wild 
beast,” cried Fuller. “He . . . He 
attacked me with l?is teeth. Look!” 
His hand went up to the side of 
his neck, came away crimson. “I 
think that you should get this 
wound dressed before you do any- 
thing else.” 

“It can wait,” said Kennedy. “I 
still want to know what hap- 
pened.” 

“I told you. He came at us like 
a wild beast. Luckily my belt was 
by the bed. In the Army we were 
taught never to leave our weapons 
out of reach. My first shot wasn’t 
enough. We struggled. One of the 
shots must have hit Rose.” 

“That much is obvious. But what 
happened?” 

“It wasn’t my fault, Kennedy. In 
the Army we were taught to re- 
spect another fellow’s wife. But 
she made a play for me all the 
morning. And . . . Well, damn it all, 
Kennedy, I’m still a young man, 
and a slice from a cut cake is never 
missed. And I knew that there was 
plenty of time before you were due 
back. If I’d known that Grant 
would come sneaking back hours 
before the time. . .” 

“I think he’s right,” said Gladen. 
“It’s pretty obvious that it wasn’t 
rape.” 



32 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



“It’s still murder,” said Kennedy. 
“No, I don’t think so. It was self 
defense. Damn it all, man— haven't 
you ever been caught with your 
pants down by an irate husband?” 
“No,” said Kennedy. 

“Then you’ve been lucky.” 

“I haven’t played around with 
married women, Gladen.” 

“That’s your misfortune. Let me 
tell you, anyhow, that if I’d been in 
Fuller’s shoes— or out of his trousers 
—and I’d seen Grant coming for 
me with that expression on his 
face, I’d have grabbed the first 
weapon handy and let fly. This is 
my advice, Kennedy. Don’t do 
anything rash. Don’t add murder 
to murder. Let the law deal with 
Fuller such time as we’re picked 
up.” 

“I suppose you’re right,” admit- 
ted Kennedy at last. 

“Of course I’m right.” 

“Very well.” He turned to Fuller. 
“Get this shambles cleared up. I 
suppose that we’ll have to let the 
women in to lay out the corpses...” 
“Mrs. Tolliver’ll never forgive 
you if you don’t,” said Gladen. 
Kennedy glared at him. 

“Get this shambles cleared up, 
Fuller. Gladen and I will carry the 
bodies to another tent.” 

Kennedy read the solemn words 
over the grave— then, aided by 
Gladen and Tolliver, he shovelled 
the earth into the pit. Fuller was 
(here, but standing well back and 
to one side. Susan and Mrs. Tol- 



liver were there, and Mrs. Tolliver’s 
somehow indecent sobbing con- 
trasted ill with the younger woman’s 
dry-eyed, dignified yet real sorrow. 

It was after dark when they sat 
down to their evening meal, which 
was served in Susan’s tent. There 
had been considerable discussion 
about whether or not Fuller was to 
be allowed to eat with them. Ken- 
nedy was against it— but, he was 
rather surprised to discover, he was 
a minority of one. And he admitted 
to himself that his reasons for wish- 
ing to make a pariah of the unfor- 
tunate Fuller were emotional rather 
than intellectual. 

It didn’t really matter, anyhow, 
because Fuller died that night. 

He went mad before he died. It 
started when he choked and splut- 
tered over his tea and threw die 
cup from him. Tolliver, who was 
spattered by the hot liquid, said 
something in protest— and then 
went down under the Major’s 
ferocious attack. 

Tolliver would have died then, 
too, had it not been for the quick- 
ness of his wife. Moving with a 
speed incredible in one so gross 
she picked up a knife, flung herself 
on top of the struggling men and 
stabbed. She went on stabbing, long 
after the need to do so had passed. 
Kennedy and Gladen had to exert 
all of their strength to pull her off 
Fuller’s body. 

Tolliver got unsteadily to his 
feet. His face was bloody— but most 
of it was Fuller’s blood. He said, 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



33 



“I ... I think I’m going to be 
sick . . .” 

Mrs. Tolliver turned on Ken- 
nedy, waving the knife. 

“That . . . beast!" she screamed. 
“Poor Mr. Grant, and that poor 
little wife of his, and now poor 
George! And you’re supposed to 
be protecting us!” 

“He must have been mad,” said 
Kennedy inadequately. 

“Of course he was mad. A mad 
dog— that’s all that he was. And 
you, you . . . puppy, let him sit 
down at table with us.” 

"We decided not to treat him as 
a criminal,” said Susan Weldon 
coldly. “All of us. And I seem to 
remember your saying, at the time, 
t hat Mrs. Grant deserved all she 
got.” 

Mrs. Tolliver glared at her, then 
I urned to her husband. 

“Come with me, George,” she 
said. “I’ll get you cleaned up.” 

The big woman and the little 
man left the tent. 

“Well?” asked Gladen, of nobody 
in particular. 

“He was mad,” said Kennedy. 
“I saw his face as he attacked little 
Tolliver. He was quite mad.” 

“Why?” asked Gladen. 

“You tell me,” said Kennedy. 
“You’re the writer around here. 
You know what makes people 
lick.” 

Gladen said, “Fuller— for all his 
military rank— was a peaceful, law- 
abiding citizen. Anybody further 
removed from the brutal and licen- 



tious soldiery of fiction it would 
be hard to imagine. I well believe 
that it was Mrs. Grant who se- 
duced him, and not the other way 
round. So— this peaceful, law-abiding 
citizen commits murder. Oh, it 
might have been in self defense, 
but it was not in very creditable 
circumstances. He brooded, as you 
or I might have brooded — you 
would— and it drove him round the 
bend.” 

“That’s the way I’ll write it up 
in the Log,” said Kennedy. “Mean- 
while— ^ we’d better have another 
funeral. I don’t suppose that the 
Tollivers will want to be among 
the mourners.” 

They got the shovels out again. 
Working by the light of two of 
the battery-powered lanterns they 
dug another grave, all of twenty 
feet from the grave occupied by 
the Grants. Kennedy was reading 
the Burial Service when the Tol- 
livers returned from the river. Mrs. 
Tolliver interrupted him. 

“Never mind that,” she said 
roughly. “You’d better do some- 
thing about George’s face. That 
man Fuller bit him." 

Gladen inspected the wound. 

“It’s hardly a scratch,” he said. 

“Even so, we’d better use the 
antibiotic,” said Kennedy. “Carry 
on filling the grave, Gladen— I’ll 
dress Mr. Tolliver’s wound now. 
Then we’ll meet in our tent for a 
conference.” 

When the minor wound had 
been dressed, when everybody was 



34 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



seated in the tent, Kennedy said, 
“I may be wrong. I hope I am. 
But it seems to me that there’s 
something in the very air of this 
place that breeds murder. That’s 
the danger here— nothing from out- 
side, but only ourselves.” 

“And what are you doing about 
it?” asked Gladen. 

“This is my idea. From now on 
we drop all ideas of modesty. From 
now on we all sleep in the one 
tent, so that if any one of us be 
seized by homicidal mania the 
others will be on hand to drag 
him off his victim.” 

“No,” said Gladen. “That’d make 
things worse, I think. If we’re all 
cooped up in the same tent, then 
tempers are going to become even 
more frayed than they are already. 
We shall increase the risk of mur- 
der, not lessen it. What I propose 
is this— that the t-wo women sleep 
in the lifeboat— they should be safe 
enough behind the airlock doors. 
The three of us will carry on as 
before, splitting the night into 
watches.” 

“That’s all very well,” objected 
Kennedy, “but if any of us should 
go the same way as Grant or 

Fuller . . .” 

“What reason is there that any 
of us should?” asked the writer. 
“Grant saw something that made 
him see red, that stripped the 
veneer of civilization from him in 
one microsecond. Fuller reacted as 
primitive man would have reacted 
—faced with a danger from which 



he could not run, he fought back. 
Successfully. Then remorse set in, 
and he wasn’t tough enough to 
take it. Of course, I grant that I 
might have grounds for trying to 
murder you, Kennedy . . .” 

“That was not funny,” said 
Susan Weldon. 

“It wasn’t meant to be. But you 
needn’t worry, my dear. I’m too 
civilized to go around murdering 
people.” 

“That’s one of the things that’s 
wrong with you,” she said. 

“You want it all ways, don’t 
you?” he rebuked her. “Civilized 
when you want me civilized, un- 
civilized when you don’t.” 

“Shut up, Stephen,” she snapped. 

“That’ll be all from both of you,” 
said Kennedy. “We’ll turn to right 
away to get the inside of the boat 
fixed up as a bedroom for the 
ladies, and when that’s finished 
we’ll set our watches.” 

“I don’t want to sleep in the 
boat,” said Mrs. Tolliver. 

“It will be the safest place,” said 
Kennedy. 

At last he, Tolliver, Gladen and 
Susan Weldon were able to con- 
vince her that this was so. 

Gladen called Kennedy when it 
was time for his spell of duty. 

He waited until the assistant 
purser was well out of earshot from 
the tent, in which Tolliver was still 
sleeping, before he started to talk. 

“I hope,” he said, “that you don’t 
have such a wearing time as I did.” 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



35 



“What’s wrong?” 

“What’s wrong? you ask. There 
am I, walking up and down, mind- 
ing my own business, when sud- 
denly a pair of female arms are 
flung around my neck and a big, 
wet mouth is planted on mine. Oh, 
no, you needn’t worry. It wasn’t 
our Susan. I shouldn’t have minded 
that:’ 

“Not Mrs. Tolliver?” asked 
Kennedy. 

“Yes, Mrs. Tolliver. Old Ma Tol- 
liver in person. She slobbered all 
over me, and told me that her dear 
George had never been able to 
give her a child, and that it was up 
to us to become the Adam and 
live of this new world. I declined 
the honor as politely as I could— 
which wasn’t very. Then I looked 
at my watch and saw that it was 
lime to call you— and that gave me 
a good excuse to break the clinch." 

“Where is she now?” 

“I don’t know. Prowling around, 
1 suppose. You'd better watch out.” 

“She doesn’t like me,” said Ken- 
nedy thankfully, 

“I didn’t think that she liked 
me,” replied the other. “But love’s 
a wonderful thing . . 

“What was that?” asked Ken- 
nedy abruptly. 

Both men stiffened, both men 
pulled the pistols from their hol- 
sters. Something was coming to- 
wards them— something that was 
crawling noisily and clumsily 
through the long grass, something 
that made a spine-chilling whim- 



pering sound as it crawled. The 
beams of two torches stabbed the 
darkness. They fell on a man— if 
George Tolliver could still be called 
a man. Something had mangled 
him dreadfully around the face 
and neck, so that it seemed a mir- 
acle that he was still living, still 
moving. He got somehow to his 
feet, glaring at Kennedy and 
Gladen with glazed eyes. He 
tottered. 

It was Kennedy who conquered 
his revulsion, who made a step for- 
ward to catch him before he fell. 
Tolliver snarled, and leapt to meet 
him. It seemed that the long, yel- 
low teeth were the only recognis- 
able features in that ruined face. 

It was Gladen who fired— who, 
standing a little to one side, poured 
a stream of the explosive slivers into 
the body of the madman. Tolliver 
was knocked backwards, away 
from Kennedy, He fell on his 
back. He twitched twice, then did 
not move again. 

“Who . . . What did it?” stam- 
mered Kennedy. “It must have 
been some wild beast. But why 
should he turn on us?” 

There was a scream from the 
lifeboat. 

They ran across the rough 
ground, panting, stumbling. The 
airlock doors of the boat were 
open, a light was showing inside. 
Kennedy was first up the ladder, 
first to see the struggle that raged 
in the living compartment. Mrs. 
Tolliver was huge, and she was 



36 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



muscled like a man, like a strong 
man— but Susan Weldon, for all 
her apparent fragility, was no 
weakling. She was fighting for her 
life, fighting to keep the other 
woman’s blood - smeared mouth 
from her throat. She could not 
spare the breath for any further 
outcry. 

Kennedy did not hesitate. He 
knew, now, who it was that had 
almost killed George Tolliver, that 
had left him for dead. Moving fast, 
yet with a certain deliberation, he 
slid down the sloping deck, de- 
creasing the range so that there 
would be no possible chance of 
his missing. He opened fire. 

Then he was pulling the huge, 
heavy body of Mrs. Tolliver off 
Susan. Then the girl was in his 
arms, and he was kissing her des- 
perately. He forgot Gladen. He 
forgot all those who had already 
died. All that was worth remem- 
bering, all that was worth know- 
ing was in his arms. 

It was Gladen who, at last, in- 
terrupted them, saying, “Get out 
of here, you two. I’ll get the mess 
cleared up.” 

He had been in love before, and 
so had she. He had been in love 
before— but never before had he 
felt this aching intensity of desire. 
At times he almost wondered if it 
were entirely natural, but he did 
not let it worry him. Neither did 
it worry him that Gladen was do- 
ing all the work around the camp 



—tending the solar-power screen 
and the batteries, sending out the 
distress call at the scheduled times, 
even writing up the Log. At times 
he heard the rattle of the older 
man’s typewriter, assumed that he 
was working off his frustrations by 
literary productivity. 

Then came the morning when 

Kennedy and Susan, still in bed, 

heard the unmistakable crack of a 
Minetti automatic. Kennedy climb- 
ed into his shorts, picked up his 
own pistol and ran from the tent. 
Susan, throwing a light robe 

around herself, followed him. 

Everything was silent outside. Ken- 
nedy felt a chilly foreboding, walk- 
ed slowly to the tent that had once 
been occupied by the Grants, that 
now housed Gladen. 

Gladen was dead. 

There was no doubt as to the 
cause of death— even just a single 
shot from a Minetti can lay bare 
the entire chest cavity, can expose 
the exploded heart among the 
wreckage of splintered ribs. The 
sight was not a pretty one. 

“I’ll handle this,” said Kennedy 
shakily. “Get back to the tent, 
darling. I’ll look after everything.” 
"But why?” she asked. “Why 
did he do it?” 

“I can guess,” replied Kennedy. 
“Perhaps, in his shoes, I’d have 
done the same.” 

“Need we have been so . . . 
selfish?” she said softly. “He must 
have been lonely.” 

She left him then, and he went 



S O S, PLANET UNKNOWN 



37 



into the tent to do what had to be 
done. 

Gladen’s typewriter stood on a 
folding table. Beside it was a little 
pile of manuscript. A suicide note? 
wondered Kennedy. He walked to 
the table, picked up the top sheet. 
It was addressed to him with the 
words: RALPH, THIS IS FOR 
YOUR EYES ONLY. READ IT, 
THEN ACT AS YOU SEE FIT. 

Kennedy picked up the second 
sheet. 

“I’m a coward,” he read, “to tell 
you what I have to tell you in this 
manner. But, perhaps, you would 
have paid no heed to me had I 
told you in any other way. It is 
certain that I’d never have been 
able to distract your attention from 
Susan had I not resorted to this 
somewhat drastic method. And it’s 
essential that you know what all 
this is about. You’re a responsible 
sort of bloke, and 1 can rely upon 
you to take action. 

“I’ll come to the point right 
away. You're not immune. Neither 
of you is immune. Nor am— was?— 
I. I thought that I was at first, that 
(lie three of us were,— but latterly 
my natural feelings of sexual 
jealousy have been augmented in a 
. most frightening manner and I’ve 
: been feeling a lust towards Susan 
that is quite foreign to my nature. 
. My attitude towards sex has always 
t been that I can take it or leave it; 

I've never cared much either way. 
t Now I feel that I must have it— 



or else. This ‘else’, this way out 
that I am taking, is better than 
murder and rape. 

“And still I haven’t come to the 
point. I’d better waste no more 
time. The . . . The thing has 
reached the stage when it has to 
be passed on somehow, to some- 
body. The fact that the only avail- 
able hosts are already fully occu- 
pied, are already busy infecting and 
re-infecting each other, doesn’t 
matter. (Perhaps a certain mixing 
of the strains is part of the process.) 
Anyhow, I can recognize the symp- 
toms in myself. I tried to drink a 
glass of water just now. (Remem- 
ber poor Fuller and his tea?) 
There’s the excessive salivation. 
(Remember that little bear-thing 
that we thought that Grant had 
killed?) There’s the foreboding of 
impending dissolution. (That’s not 
surprising— but I’m going to go out 
my way.) 

“I did a lot of research for my 
last novel. It was historical— late 
Nineteenth Century. I wanted one 
of my characters to die rather 
messily, and in a way typical of 
the times, so I browsed through 
medical text books of the period 
and found all sorts of really fancy 
diseases that haven’t been known 
for generations. The one that most 
appealed to me was rabies. It could 
almost have been made to measure 
for one of the malignant, intelli- 
gent viruses that the science fiction 
boys are always playing around 
with. The fascinating thing about 



38 



VANGUARD SCUiNCIi FICTION' 



it was the way in which it was 
passed on. 

“Look at it this way. Consider 
malaria. It was a fever, and it was 
often fatal. It was carried from 
human host to human host by a 
little blood-sucking insect called 
the mosquito— which was a host it- 
self. The mosquito, when feeding, 
pierced the victim’s skin with its 
proboscis and, first of all, injected 
saliva into the tiny wound to dilute 
the blood. But this is the point. 
The micro - organism responsible 
for malaria was transmitted from 
one host to the next quite by 
chance and entirely by the normal 
gratification of the mosquito’s 
normal appetite. The same could 
be said about typhus, transmitted 
from rat to man by another para- 
sitical arthropod called the flea. 

“Then there was syphilis, one of 
the so-called venereal diseases. It 
was transmitted from man to 
woman, and from woman to man, 
during coitus. Once again, only 
normal appetites were involved. 

“With rabies, however, a strong 
clement of the abnormal was in- 
volved. The disease affected the 
brain of the host— dogs were the 
most common carriers, although 
bats and other mammals were 
known to spread the infection— in- 
ducing a murderous frenzy. The 
afflicted animal would attack any- 
thing, everything and everybody in 
its path and the virus of the dis- 
ease would be implanted into the 
wounds made by the animal’s teeth, 



carried there by the abundant 
saliva. It was all very complicated. 
It was all far more complicated 
than the usual story of virus and 
vector, inasmuch as the vector was 
driven into utterly abnormal be- 
haviour so that it could act as such. 

“This local virus works on the 
same lines— or more so. 

“The bear-thing bit Mrs. Grant. 
Mrs. Grant behaved in an utterly 
abnormal manner — yes, I’m sure 
that it was abnormal— with Fuller. 
She must have infected him, as 
well as her husband. (I don’t think 
that with this virus the bite, the 
actual breaking of skin, is neces- 
sary; intimate contact is enough.) 
Then Fuller, when he attacked 
Tolliver, infected him. He, Tol- 
liver, infected his wife. She, that 
night when she tried to seduce (or 
rape) me, infected me. Later she 
infected Susan, and she . . . 

“But there’s no need to write 
about it, Kennedy, and I’d sooner 
not. 

“I’m almost finished now. I’ll 
say what I have to say and then 
make my exit. Think about what 
I’ve said, Kennedy. Face facts. It 
looks as though you and Susan 
will be the Adams and Eve of a 
new race on this planet— and by all 
indications it will be a race of 
rapists and murderers. I may be 
wrong. It could be that some sort 
of symbiosis will work itself out 
over the generations, or some sort 
of immunty or near-immunity. Un- 
luckily I’m no biologist, and neither 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



39 



arc you. 

“All I can say— selfishly— is that 
■I’m glad that the responsibility is 
yours and not mine. I’m rather 
sorry that I shan’t be around to see 
how you handle it.” 

“You bastard!” said Kennedy bit- 
terly. Then— “I’m sorry, Gladen. 
You did right to tell me what you 
knew, what you guessed. You 
didn’t tell me what to do— but that’s 
not your job.” 

Moving mechanically he found 
a shovel, dug a grave just outside 
the tent. He pulled the shattered 
body out to the hole, rolled it in. 
He filled in the grave, stamped the 
loose earth down tight. He walked 
slowly to the river to wash. 

I can feel the beginnings of it, 
he thought. The fear of water. 
How much is real, how much 
imagination after reading Gladen’s 
testament? How long will Susan 
and I be able to carry on the way 
we are doing? Is our love— or lust 
—permanent, or will it give way to 
the other sort of lust? Shall I wake 
up one morning to find her teeth 
in my throat, or mine in hers? 

The girl was waiting for him in 
the tent. He looked at her with 
coldly objective eyes. She was ob- 
viously pregnant. Would the child, 
lie wondered, be born with the 
virus, already in its blood or would 
the poison come from its mother’s 
milk, its mother’s kisses? 

"Have you ... ?” she asked. 

“Yes,” he said. “I’ve buried him.” 



“Poor Stephen,” she said softly. 
“He must have been so very lonely. 
Did he leave any message?” 

“No,” said Kennedy. 

“You’re lying,” she said. 

He felt dislike— or was it more 
than dislike? — flare within his 
mind. She has the child, he thought. 
I’ve fulfilled my biological func- 
tion. Will this cause her to hate 
me, to want to kill me, rather than 
to love me? 

“What did he say?” she asked 
coldly, 

“He left no message,” repeated 
Kennedy. 

What long teeth she has, thought 
Kennedy. And sharp . . . 

“Why are you baring your teeth 
like that?” she asked. 

“I can smile, can’t I?” he snarled. 

“What is there to smile about?” 
she demanded. 

What, indeed? he thought. Do I 
kill die two of us— the three of us, 
rather— or do I kill just myself? Do 
I give her and the child a chance 
to live, incestuously to breed a race 
of monsters? Will they be mon- 
sters? Will the child be a boy? 
What chance is there that she and 
the child will survive when I am 
gone? 

“Why is your face working so?” 
she asked. “Are you mad?” 

“Yes. I am. And so are you.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“How long is it since you had a 
bath? How much are you drink- 
ing these days?” 

“What are you getting at?” 



40 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



“Will you answer my questions?” 
“Will you answer mine?” 

She started to say something, but 
he never heard what it was. Every- 
thing was blotted out by a red haze 
of hate— hate such as he had never 
known could exist. There was a 
low growling sound in his ears; 
with faint surprise he realized that 
he was making it. He knew dimly 
that he was advancing on her with 
hands outstretched to clutch and 
rend, with bared teeth. Somebody 
screamed. He never knew if it was 
her, or himself. 

Somehow she managed to evade 
his hands, pushed past him, ran 
clumsily out of the tent. Turning 
to follow, he tripped and fell. 
When he recovered his feet she 
was half way to the forest. 

He ran in pursuit. It was like the 
dreams that he had sometimes 
about flying, it seemed that he was 
skimming over the grass with ef- 
fortless ease. He was gaining, but 
not gaining fast enough. When 
he reached the trees he had lost 
sight of her. 

“I must find her,” he was mut- 
tering. “I must find her.” 

He ran on blindly, staggered 
back from a blow that felt as 
though it had pushed in his face. 
Raging, he attacked the tree against 
which he had blundered, then, 
with a return to something ap- 
proaching sanity, fell back from 
the unyielding, insensate trunk and 
stood there, looking around him. 
Something white caught his eye 



—it was a shred of material from 
her robe snagged on a thorn. A 
little further on there was another 
one. He growled again, with satis- 
faction. Again he started to run, 
but more cautiously, alert for fur- 
ther signs of her passage. The 
blood from his nose ran into his 
open, gasping mouth, mingled with 
the saliva running down his chin. 

Something roared, but he paid 
it no heed. There were so many 
noises in his ears that one more 
meant nothing. He ran on, and 
on, ignoring the deep scratches 
scored into his unprotected skin by 
the thorny bushes, the occasional 
heavy blows that he sustained as 
he blundered into trees. Once or 
twice he lost the trail and cast 
around in circles, whining like a 
dog. He must find her. That was 
all he knew. He must find her. 

He was out of the forest, under 
the open sky. The small part of 
his mind that retained some vestige 
of sanity told him that she must 
have circled, that she was making 
her way back to the camp. He 
saw her then, a white figure half 
way to the gleaming hemispheres 
of the tents. 

She is going to escape in the 
boat, he thought. She mustn’t. I 
must catch her and kill her before 
she reaches the boat. 

She tripped and fell. She re- 
gained her feet, but he was on her. 
He caught her shoulders, pulled 
her round so that she was facing 
him. He ignored the clawed fingers 



SOS, PLANET UNKNOWN 



41 



that reached for his face, brought 
his mouth, his teeth down to the 
white neck in which a vein pulsed. 

The noises in his ears were loud, 
but over them he heard her scream- 
ing. She struggled viciously. When, 
suddenly, she went limp he was 
taken unawares and almost drop- 
ped her. 

A second later, just before he was 
able to sink his teeth in her neck, 
he did drop her, overwhelmed by 
a choking dizziness charged with 
rage and frustration, and fell beside 
her. He realized dimly, before he 
lost consciousness, that she had re- 
gained her knees, and now was 
bending over him. 

“We thought we’d lost you,” said 
the doctor. “The girl did a wizard 
job of nursing you, but you were 
still delirious when we landed— 
you were violent when we tried to 
get you aboard ship. We were all 
relieved when we were able to 
put you in the deep freeze.” 

Kennedy looked around the 
plainly furnished little cabin. He 
listened to the faint sounds— the 
whine and throb of machinery, the 
sound of feet on metal decks— that 
told of a ship in deep space. He 
looked at the elderly, uniformed 
man who was sitting by his bunk. 

“I still can’t believe it,” he said. 
“Put me in the picture again, will 
you?” 

The doctor smiled. 

“We picked up your signals. Our 
navigator worked out where they 



were coming from. We proceeded 
straight to the planetary system in- 
dictated, threw ourselves into an 
orbit around the world on which 
you had landed, succeeded, with 
the aid of our detectors, in locating 
your boat. Nobody answered our 
signals, so our Captain decided 
that there must be something 
wrong and gave orders that our 
landing party carry arms— includ- 
ing, as you know, anesthetic gas 
grenades. Our boat landed by your 
camp, which appeared to be de- 
serted. Then we saw you burst out 
of your tent, running like a mad 
thing, with Miss Weldon after you. 
We thought at first that you had 
seen or heard us landing and were 
hurrying to greet us. When you 
attacked us we were astounded. 
Then we managed to make sense 
of what Miss Weldon was shout- 
ing, and our third pilot, who was 
in charge of the boat, had the pres- 
ence of mind to use the grenade 
thrower. You were lucky, too, that 
we had such a thing with us— if 
the Old Man hadn’t had one 
broken out of the consignment of 
military equipment, and if we’d 
had only the usual lifeboat fire- 
arms, we’d have shot to kill. We 
could see even then that you had 
the human disease.” 

“The what?" 

“Let me take it in order,” the 
doctor said. “That manuscript we 
found in Gladen’s tent gave us all 
the other clues we needed. You 
and the girl were rushed back to 



42 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



the ship— you partially recovered 
consciousness en route and gave us 
a lot o£ trouble, so we stashed you 
in my deep freeze. The Old Man 
gave me time to organize a hunting 
party. Wc caught six of those little 
bears,, two of which carried the 
virus. With the local fauna, by the 
way, it seems to work in cycles— 
love during the breeding season, 
hate at other times. But I had al- 
ready deduced that, as soon as I’d 
run a complement-fixation test. It 
always works like that when there 
is a breeding season, but of course 
in man there isn’t— or else the 
breeding season is year-round, take 
your pick of definitions.” 

“But it’s fatal,” Kennedy said. 

“Not at all. It’s quite self-limit- 
ing; the fatalities are inflicted by 
the victims on each other. And the 
severity of the disease depends on 
how it’s transmitted. Miss Weldon 
got it purely through the mucous 
membranes— but you got it through 
a break in the skin. The latter is 
much the more virulent form; 
that’s why she was able to recover 
faster dian you did, and nurse you 
for a week before we landed. Mr. 
Gladen was wrong about that, and 
it’s a doubly sad affair that he 
thought he had to kill himself. He 
probably never had the disease at 
all— after all, he was raised on 
Earth, and very probably was hy- 
per-immune. His imagination be- 
trayed him.” 

“Now that’s enough hints,” Ken- 
nedy said. “The human disease— 



Gladen raised on Earth— what are 
you driving at?” 

“This is the human disease, Mr. 
Kennedy,” the doctor said regret- 
fully. “It is common to all Earth- 
like planets. Early man had a good 
immunity to it — it seldom made him 
overtly mad: he simply had these 
emotional seizures in the same way 
he had periodic colds. But most of 
humanity had been a long time off 
Earth, and the inherited immunity 
seldom lasts beyond the first six 
weeks of life. Six of you were push- 
overs for the virus; Mr. Gladen, 
very probably, was not. 

“As for you, luck was with you. 
I had no anti-serum for the disease 
aboard, but I was able to prepare 
some from the two infected bears 
that we caught. As you see, it 
works.” He chuckled. “You were 
like a patient out of time, Mr. 
Kennedy— a man suffering under 
a curse.” * 

“What is the name of this dis- 
ease?” Kennedy said in a smoth- 
ered voice. 

“The official name would mean 
nothing to you. The two syndromes 
it produces have the oldest names 
in the universe. Love and hate.” 
The cabin door opened. 

“I heard that, doctor,” said Susan. 
“But you produced only half a 
cure.” 

“I didn’t use all the anti-serum,” 
said the doctor, but neither Ken- 
nedy nor the girl heard him. He 
shrugged his shoulders and left the 
cabin. 



57 



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Alyn kiiew that what she saw was an illusion. But who was 
to decide what was real — the natives, or the Earthmen? 



WHEN THE SHOE FITS 

by 

James E. Gunn 



A lyn was a xenologist. She was 
. also a woman. The xenologist 
was worried. The woman was 
scared. The natives were throwing 
a ball, and she had a horrid sus- 
picion that her teammates would 
insist she go. 

She slipped through the market 
place, unnoticed in the blaze o£ 
noon, and damned private enter- 
prise. . . . 

Private enterprise made ET ex- 
ploration possible. Government 
could do it, but Government 
wouldn’t. That had been proved. 
Space was fantastically big, and ET 
exploration was fantastically ex- 
pensive. ET exploration was also 
vital: humanity needed a frontier 
for the good of its soul; for the 
good of its body it needed that 
frontier as far as possible from 
Earth. 

Laws were drafted to make ex- 
ploration profitable, and humanity 
was unleashed upon the galaxy. 



Jonathan Craddoc\, Exploiters and 
I in porters, was born — along with 
one hundred competitors, more or 
less. 

The Bureau of Extraterrestrial 
Affairs was born at the same time 
to enforce the laws and regulate 
the profit. 

If an exploration team located an 
uninhabited world or a Level 6 
culture — stringently defined by 
BETA regulations as one ready for 
terrestrial contact — the company re- 
ceived an exclusive franchise to ex- 
ploit that world. In actual practice 
only the Level 6 discovery was 
worthwhile. Exploitation of an un- 
inhabited world was theoretically 
possible, but at this stage of Earth’s 
technological development, the cap- 
ital outlay was prohibitive. A com- 
pany could wait five years for a 
profit; it couldn’t wait a hundred. 

On the other hand, one Level 6 
discovery recouped a thousand fail- 
ures. Virgin trade territory was 
fabulously profitable. 



43 



44 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



Exploration teams had two as- 
sets: the Fairfax field, that subtle 
electronic gadget which persuades 
those creatures within its range 
that they see what they are expect- 
ing to see; and the quality of their 
members, who were motivated by 
that most reliable of incentives — 
greed. Their rewards were gradu- 
ated sharply according to achieve- 
ments up to a Level 6 plateau which 
made each team member indepen- 
dently wealthy for life. 

Labor unions objected to the in- 
centive system; idealists objected 
to the motives. Both worked. The 
persons who signed company con- 
tracts sought not security but ad- 
venture, not ends but means. They 
were neither morally better nor 
worse than the ordinary run of 
humanity, but they were more de- 
termined, more persistent, more in- 
genious, and more trustworthy. 

The teams had an equal number 
of debits: since the companies 
could not wait centuries, the teams 
had to move fast; and speed means 
mistakes through lack of under- 
standing. Like idioms. The Trans- 
lators were good, but only experi- 
ence can translate idioms 

That thought bothered Alyn most 
as she threaded her way through 



the crowded street back toward the 
ship. A native turned sharply and 
looked at her with surprised violet 
eyes. Then she drew closer, and his 
eyes went blank. Alyn shivered, al- 
though Meissner’s Star was hot, 
and drew her cloak closer around 
her. 

“When there’s dirty work to be 
done,” she thought rebelliously, 
“I’m the one who has to do it.” 

Her lips moved silently, she 
damned them: Davis, Pip, and the 
Skipper — her teammates, her men, 
her children, her lovers. . . . Long 
ago Earth’s voyagers had found 
the ideal spaceship complement: 
three men and a woman. Carefully 
selected, a woman could easily be 
all things to three men, and three 
men, if they tried hard, could be 
all things to a woman. 

But they imposed on her, as men 
do upon a woman who loves them. 
They expected her to slave for 
them all night and all day, too, 
while they lolled at home 

She focused her desires on reach- 
ing the spaceship that towered tall 
and iridescent in the distance. 
Home. They would be waiting for 
her. Her face softened, grew fem- 
inine and lovely. Quiet, loyal Davis 
— the methodical scientist, at home 
with things, asea in human rela- 



JAMES E. GUNN first appeared in science-fiction in 1949 under 
a pseudonym, but in recent years the pen-name seems to have gone 
into semi-retirement. A prolific writer of short stories, Gunn is 
also the author of a novel, “ This Fortress World ” ( Gnome Press). 



WHEN THE SHOE FITS 



45 



dons, never expecting anything, 
always grateful for whatever he re- 
ceived. Little, effervescent Pip — the 
sure-fingered technician, shrewd, 
impertinent, and easily hurt. The 
Skipper — big, blond, self-sufficient, 
monosyllabic, avuncular 

He was older than the others, 
Alyn thought, but not that old. She 
would have to be particularly at- 
tractive to him — 

A native jostled her back to 
awareness. She almost screamed. 
Panicky, she clutched the cloak, 
hugged it tight. The Fairfax Field 
was a wonderful thing — it made 
xenological field work possible — 
but it was less deceptive in day- 
light. At the periphery, the natives 
were catching glimpses of her as 
she really was. Soon they would 
start putting the extraordinary 
together, and they would get 
“alien.” 

Then, at best, the Team would be 
out — with the Company on its back 
and the Bureau on its neck. 

While she was about it, she 
damned the Company, too. It cut 
a corner, saved a penny, and lost 
a world. These Field generators 
were obsolescent, and she was get- 
ting a bounce effect that made her 
observations virtually worthless. It 
was all very well for the natives to 
see her as a native and the Ship 
as a native dwelling, but when she 
saw their world as vaguely Earth- 
like, the whole enterprise became 
pointless. It was impossible to tell 
what was real and what was Fair- 



fax. . . . 

The town was an 18th century 
English village trembling perilous- 
ly on the brink of the Industrial 
Revolution . . . but not quite. 

The picture was just a little 
askew, as if the signboard of the 
village inn illustrated a beheading 
with half a dozen natives lying, 
mouths open, to catch the blood as 
it fell. 

As a matter of fact, that was the 
signboard of the village inn. It 
was, apparently, an idiom — or, at 
least, the way in which Alyn’s 
mind, reinforced by the bounce 
effect of the Fairfax Field, inter- 
preted the native idiom. Probably 
it was not that at all. 

So it went. The houses were not 
quite the proper shape. They were 
built solidly enough of bricks or 
stone, but they were painted with 
intricate, painstaking, many-colored 
designs. 

She came out of the market place 
into the green common. She thread- 
ed her way between grazing rumin- 
ants that were not quite cows and 
restrained an impulse to run. She 
walked down a street that was not 
quite cobblestone among creatures 
that were not quite human. 

They were man-shaped, but their 
torsos were too long and oddly 
distorted, pigeon-breasted, as if 
there were too many bones inside. 
Their arms were short, and their 
hands had only four fingers, like 
cartoon characters. Their heads 
were small and their faces mal- 



A 6 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



formed, with pushed-in noses, large, 
bulging violet eyes, wide mouths 
and pointed teeth, and prognathous 
jaws. 

They looked like hairless Pek- 
ingese dogs, a caricature of human- 
ity that made Alyn want to scream. 

Their name for themselves trans- 
lated as “the People.” The Team 
called them “Pekes,” against all 
rules — BETA, Company, and scien- 
tific. By extension, Meissner’s Star 
( 2 ) became “Peking.” 

The Pekes made Alyn nervous. 
She didn’t mind creatures that 
scampered or writhed or swam or 
oozed, but she couldn’t stand crea- 
tures who walked on two legs and 
looked her in the eye. If they 
weren’t human, they gave her the 
willies. 

They were humanoid — the Fair- 
fax Field couldn’t falsify that. And 
that was just what made any con- 
clusions dangerous. 

Alyn scrambled up the ladder. 
The spaceship door swung open. 
She walked through the air lock, 
went through the inner door, and 
climbed the stairway to the living 
deck. 

Davis turned from his work- 
bench, a test tube forgotten in his 
fingers. Pip looked up from the 
delicately carved lapis lazuli he 
was examining through a loupe. 
The Skipper swung down from 
the bridge. They looked at her ex- 
pectantly, a little greedily. 

Alyn said, “They’re going to 
have a ball.” 



She let the cloak and hood slip 
down. It crumpled on the floor. 
Underneath it she was wearing a 
halter and shorts. She had a good 
figure — slim and youthful, but 
womanly. 

She had the type of face that is 
best described as fascinating. Partly 
it was her red hair, but it was more 
the face: forehead too high, cheek- 
bones too prominent, lips too firm, 
chin too stubborn, eyes too intelli- 
gent. They made a combination 
men found irresistible, but she was 
too sane to make it her fortune. 

Perhaps that was why she had 
joined Jonathan Craddoc\. Or may- 
be it was the money. Nowhere else 
could a woman retire at thirty, 
unencumbered, with enough money 
to let her do what she wished for 
the rest of her life — if her team 
were lucky enough to hit upon that 
one-in-a-hundred Level 6 culture. 

Or maybe it was because only 
with Jonathan Craddoc \ — or a 
competitor — could she practice 

legalized polyandry. Had she, as 
woman always had, followed the 
interesting men, the voyagers, the 
risk-takers? It was a question she 
had been unable to answer for her- 
self. She knew only that the ones 
left at home were culls. 

“Careful with that cloak,” Davis 
said absently. “There’s ten thousand 
bucks worth of Fairfax Field wired 
into that rag.” 

Alyn scowled at him. “And it 
doesn’t work. I’m getting too much 
bounce effect.” She shrugged and 



WHEN THE SHOE FITS 



47 



turned away. “No matter, anyhow. 
No more daylight work for me. 
It’s too hot in that cloak, and too 
dangerous.” 

Pip chuckled. “Trust the incred- 
ulity factor, Alyn.” 

“Don’t blabber.” 

But Pip was probably right. That 
was how the Field worked. Or how 
it was thought to work; there was 
a lot of disagreement. Fairfax him- 
self had always insisted that it did 
no more than satisfy the brain’s 
visual scanning mechanism, the 
alpha rhythm; it stopped — or inter- 
fered with — the scanning sweep, 
giving the watcher the sense of 
seeing something without specify- 
ing what that something was. From 
there on, the incredulity factor took 
over — that habit of the mind which 
directs it to seek always the simpler 
explanation. That there are aliens 
among us is a wild fantasy; it is 
simpler to assume that what one 
sees is something ordinary, seen 
badly. 

But not every mind has an alpha 
rhythm to interrupt — for instance, 
M-types. Some epistomologists 
doubted that the Field affected the 
mind at all, and photographs sup- 
ported them: an object inside a 
Fairfax Field was optically blurred, 
even to the mindless eye of a cam- 
era. But if that were all there was to 
it, why the bounce effect — and the 
critical tuning that made it pos- 
sible to get rid of it? 

“I don’t think it’s just the in- 
credulity factor,” Alyn said slowly. 



“The Pekes are just humanoid 
enough to make us forget that 
they’re aliens. But we’re the aliens; 
we don’t expect to see something 
ordinary here, unless the Field is 
leaking. And I think it is. It rattles 
me, Pip.” 

“The ball,” the Skipper 
prompted. 

Alyn started. “That’s what the 
Translator called it. A dance with 
music. If they dance and if they 
have music. Maybe it’s a party 
where they play footsie and later 
pay the piper. Who can be sure 
with an idiom?” 

“Who’s throwing it?” Davis 
asked. 

“The king, chief, elder, headman 
— whatever you want to call him. 
If he’s any of those. We can’t over- 
estimate our inability to translate 
accurately.” 

“Understood,” the Skipper said 
impatiently. 

“Well,” Alyn continued reluc- 
tantly, “he lives in that big pile of 
masonry on the hill above town. 
He’s got a male offspring — or may- 
be it’s an heir designate from the 
village — anyway, he’s come of age, 
and the king has invited all the 
nubile maidens in the kingdom to 
a ball at which the prince will take 
his pick. For what purpose I can 
only guess. It isn’t even safe to 
guess. . . .” She looked at the Skip- 
per and read something in his eyes 
which made her look quickly at 
Pip and even quicker at Davis. 
“No,” she said weakly, and then 



48 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



more defiantly, “No! NO! I won’t 
do it. You can’t make me do it!” 

“Big chance,” the Skipper 
pointed out. “Ceremony. Good 
evidence.” 

“You’re the woman,” Pip said, 
“and the xenologist.” 

“It’s now or never,” Davis added. 

“Then it’s never,” Alyn said 
breathlessly. “Mixing with Pekes at 
an affair like that! Anything might 
happen. My cloak could be pulled 
away. . . 

Pip reassured her. “I’ll take care 
of that.” 

“Let’s give up on Peking. We’re 
wasting our time. It’ll never pay 
out. The Pekes aren’t Level 6 or 
even Level 5. Anyway, they’ve got 
nothing worth exporting.” 

“Maybe,” the Skipper said, shrug- 
ging. “Still a chance.” 

“There’s the jewels and the en- 
gravings,” Davis said. 

“Al’s right,” Pip said. “We can’t 
collect enough secretly to make it 
worthwhile. Extra-T curios are 
scarcely worth hold space, anyhow. 
But Level 6! You never can tell 
about the Bureau. Tell the truth, 
Al. Why don’t you want to go to 
the ball?” 

She burst into tears of weariness 
and frustration. “Because I’ve got 
nothing to wear, stupid!” 

“Is that all?” Pip said slyly. 

“Last chance,” the Skipper said 
bluntly. 

Alyn snapped, “Well, why don’t 
one of you go?” 

“Oho!" Pip chortled. “The Field 



is good, but not good enough to 
turn us into nubile maidens. It 
will have to work hard enough on 
you.” 

“You’re hateful!” Alyn snapped, 
stamping her foot. “When we get 
back, one of us can just find an- 
other group, that’s all!” 

“She’ll go,” said the Skipper. 

Alyn came out of her cabin with 
a swish and a swirl of musical 
white crinoline that made three 
masculine jaws drop in admiration. 
She was a creature of elegance and 
radiant beauty, from her transpar- 
ent shoes to her living crown of 
coiled hair sparkling with tiny 
stars. She was every man’s de- 
sire. . . . 

Pip recovered first. “You’ve got 
the Field turned on!” 

“Say, now,” Davis protested. 
“We’ve got to live with you, you 
know. That’s not fair.” 

“Right,” the Skipper said. 

Alyn pivoted on her right heel 
and faded. Not much. Just enough 
to appear only humanly desirable. 
“Serves you right. You’re mean, 
sadistic beasts, all of you, and I 
don’t know why I ever signed on.” 
She looked down at her dress, spun 
slowly around, and couldn’t sus- 
tain a frown. She sighed. “It’s 
beautiful.” 

For once all of them were silent. 
Finally Davis said, “We wanted 
to give you a present.” 

Pip added softly, “We saved it 
for a moment when you needed it 



WHEN THE SHOE FITS 



49 



most.” 

“Surprise,” said the Skipper. 
AJyn’s frown returned. “And you 
gave it to me now so that I’d do 
your dirty work for you. Men!” 
She turned sharply on Pip. “The 
reason I turned on the Field — I had 
to try it out. And I got a frightful 
bounce effect.” 

Pip grinned. “We looked good to 
you, too, huh? Well, it figures. A 
small unit like that one in the heel 
of your right shoe can’t carry much 
shielding. It’s not centrally lo- 
cated either. A marvelous piece of 
micro-machining, though. Worth 
its weight in tickets home. One 
thing — the battery is good for only 
four hours. Be back before then.” 
“It’s battery operated?” Alyn ex- 
claimed. 

“Just the receiver. The Field it- 
self is picked up from the ship. 
Don’t worry — as long as you get 
back within four hours.” 

“Fine, wonderful,” Alyn mut- 
tered. “Eight-nine-tcn-eleven- 
tvvelve. Pip isn’t this a little thick? 
Who do you think you’re fooling 
with this fairy tale?” 

Pip looked sheepish. “It’s a gam- 
ble.” 

“You lost. I won’t go.” 

Davis protested, “But there's no 
time to change our plans.” 

“Right,” said the Skipper. “Pip’s 
sorry. No difference. Must go.” 
“Fairy tale themes are endlessly 
repetitive,” Pip said. “The good 
ones, anyway. That’s why they per- 
sist. They express something fun- 



damental about existence.” After a 
moment he added: “We’ll be there 
too, you know.” 

Alyn’s face softened. “I might 
have known you wouldn’t toss me 
out completely on my own. Who’s 
going to carry the camera?” 

“I — ” Davis began, and stopped. 

Alyn took a deep breath. “Okay. 
Don’t drop it. I don’t know where 
I’m going, but I’ll want to know 
where I’ve been — and who I was at 
the time.” 

She made her way down the 
treads to the air lock and through 
it and down the ladder to the 
ground as carefully as a conductor 
threading his way through an or- 
chestra-pit. The dress was an en- 
cumbrance, but it was also a neces- 
sity. She would have been better off 
in a cloak, but she would never 
have gone in a cloak. 

Behind her came Davis and Pip. 
To her they looked like Davis and 
Pip in hood and cloak. To Pekes 
they would look like Pekes — per- 
haps. That was the beauty of the 
Fairfax Field: it reinforced the 
expected image. 

Or did it? Suppose the Pekes 
were M types. Minus the alpha 
rhythm, wholly visual thinkers 
whose minds were so busy mani- 
pulating images that they had no 
scanning pattern to interrupt? Or 
suppose they were P-for-Persistent 
types, wholly abstract thinkers, 
whose alpha rhythm went on con- 
stantly without their feeling any 
need to satisfy it? Fairfax had been 



50 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



wrong, he had to be wrong. The 
field, had he been right, should 
work only for R-for-Responsive 
types, whose visual scanning stop- 
ped when they actually saw some- 
thing, or their brains threw up a 
visual thought that substituted for 
an actual sighting. That would ex- 
plain the disagreement on how it 
worked, for human beings were a 
mixed lot— mostly R. 

If the Pekes were a mixed lot 
too, that left only the incredulity 
factor — quite unreinforced, except 
by the optical effect of the Field. 
It was not much to lean on. 

She walked along the streets diat 
were not quite cobblestone streets 
in her dancing slippers, one heel 
of which contained a Fairfax Field 
receiver and amplifier. The street 
was immaculate. That was one 
point for the Pekes — they were 
clean, unlike the pseudo-England 
she was seeing through the Field. 
. . . She stopped herself. Compari- 
sons of that kind were the xenolo- 
gist’s pitfall; the use of the Field 
prohibited them. Too much bounce 
effect. 

Just once she looked back at the 
ship. To her it looked like a ship — 
a wonderful shiny fortress of a ship, 
but still a ship. To the Pekes— -per- 
haps — it looked like a native fort- 
ress that had been there ever since 
they could remember. 

Providing the Pekes were all R’s 
— and providing that the Field had 
anything at all to do with the alpha 
rhythm. 



There was scarcely anyone on 
the street: a few late shoppers hur- 
rying home, a policeman sauntering 
along, checking the stores. . . . 

A policeman l 

He saw Alyn and smiled. “Ah, 
there,” he said in a rich Irish 
brogue, “anither maiden for the 
ball, is it? You’d better be hurrying, 
me dear, or the Prince will have 
made his pick and you not there.” 

Alyn shivered. She was getting 
a bounce effect to end all bounce 
effects. A policeman, indeed! She 
bent her head and moved rapidly 
toward the large building on the 
hill. 

As she drew near, it looked more 
like a palace than the native struc- 
ture she remembered. She climbed 
the gleaming marble stairs and 
passed between tall columns to the 
big, brass doors. They swung open. 
A uniformed majordomo bowed 
her into a long hallway carpeted in 
red velvet. Its walls were hung with 
tapestries. . . . Tapestries! 

She turned to run away, panic 
fluttering like a bird in her throat. 
But she glimpsed Davis and Pip 
skulking behind. They wouldn’t let 
her quit. What they had, the Team, 
was based on confidence. Once it 
was shattered, the Team was 
broken, no good, and what they 
had was no good either. . . . 

She turned back to the hallway. 

It led her into a magnificent ball- 
room, its dark, parquet floor glisten- 
ing in the light of dozens of can- 



WHEN THE SHOE FITS 



delabra hanging from the vaulted 
ceiling. The floor was crowded with 
beautiful women and handsome 
men, all dressed to the teeth, be- 
jeweled and bespangled. They 
danced to the music of an orches- 
tra that played on a distant plat- 
form. 

As she hesitated, the dancers 
stopped. The music died away. 
Everyone’s eyes turned toward her. 
Panic surged into her throat again. 
She bit her lower lip to keep from 
screaming. 

Out of the throng came a man 
moving slowly, his dark eyes fixed 
upon her face. He was a tall man, 
broad-shouldered and lean, his 
face ruggedly handsome, his mouth 
betraying an unsuspected sensitiv- 
ity. He wore a Graustarkian uni- 
form, sparkling with buttons, 
jingling with medals. . . . 

He was — the dream prince, the 
fairy tale prince, the answer to 
every maiden’s prayer. . . . And 
he was just as real. 

Still, Alyn could not resist a 
shiver of anticipation as he ap- 
proached her. His eyes searched her 
face until he was very close; her 
knees got a little weak. His hand 
reached out for hers. He bowed 
low over it. His lips kissed her 
palm. For a frantic moment she 
i bought of the Pekes’ needle-sharp 
iccth. . . . 

Her last really sane thought was: 
How does this loo\ to Davis and 
l ‘ip. . ,? What is really happening? 

Then she surrendered herself to 



51 

the illusions of the Fairfax Field 
and the arms of the Prince. 

The ballroom floor was like an 
undersea fairyland of color and 
music through which she swam 
like an infinitely graceful angelfish 
around which the Prince pirouetted 
and returned in a hypnotic mating 
dance. Around her moved other 
dancers. Music played distantly, 
something familiar although she 
could not quite place it. But neither 
one made any real impression upon 
her. 

She had no eyes for anyone but 
the Prince, no ears for anything 
but his whispers. What did he say? 
Nothing and everything — she could 
not remember, and yet it was what 
should have been said, what had 
to be said. . . . She knew that at 
the time. Nothing was done to 
break the spell — for it was a spell; 
she knew it, and she could not 
change it, and she would not have 
changed it if she could. 

She was falling in love. She was 
falling in love with a Peke, with 
a creature impossibly alien. She 
knew it and it didn’t matter. 

This was not like the love she 
felt for Davis and Pip and the 
Skipper. That had been an emotion 
slow in developing, even slower in 
being recognized for what it was: 
an emotion compounded of the 
maternal, the protective, the toler- 
ant, and the sexual. 

This was a love of another color. 
This was romantic love, a scarlet 
thing. The Prince was perfection; 






52 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



his touch made her faint. Life was 
bliss that would never end, a fire 
that raced through her veins, a tide 
that choked her throat, a delicious 
ache that turned her limbs languor- 
ous. . . . 

She was in love with a dream, 
with a Field-induced delusion, but 
now it didn’t matter. The emotion 
alone was enough. 

Time passed like a blurred 
watercolor. She was delirious, fever- 
ish, enraptured, abandoned, reck- 
less. . . . The Prince led her toward 
a small doorway, his hand holding 
hers, his eyes fixed upon her face. 
She followed dreamily. Wherever 
her Prince led, she would follow. 
His dear face preceded her, the 
cute, little upturned nose, the violet 
eyes, the wide, sensitive mouth. . . . 

“Alyn!” 

Someone was calling her. Who? 
No matter. Nothing mattered but 
the Prince. 

“Alyn! Alyn! Alyn! Alyn! . . 

It went on like that, like the tolling 
of a bell. She couldn’t ignore it; 
somehow she would have to silence 
it. 

Her eyes cleared a little. Out of 
the surrounding blur came a face 
she knew. It was Pip’s face. It was 
contorted, the mouth open, yelling 
at her. . . . 

“Alyn! For crimeny’s sake, the 
battery’s failing. You’re coming 
through. We’ve got to get out of 
here. What’s the matter with you? 
Snap out of it! Alyn!” 

The mists thinned. Her eyes 



swept the faces around her: Peke 
faces. Even the Prince’s face was a 
Peke’s face, beloved though it 
was. . . . 

Sanity returned like a cold sea 
wave engulfing her. She would 
have to run. She turned wildly and 
fled through the hall. No longer 
was it a ballroom. It was a big, 
rough masonry meeting room filled 
with Pekes. The candelabra were 
open gas flames. 

The Pekes gaped at her. They 
couldn’t be seeing her clearly yet. 
But they could see that she was 
acting strangely. Soon they would 
try to stop her. 

Behind her a Peke voice called 
out. The Prince. She knew it in- 
stinctively. Her heart turned over, 
but still she ran. 

She reached the doorway. The 
tapestries were really the intricate 
Peke designs drawn upon the walls. 
The red velvet carpet was a rush 
mat. Her shoe caught in it. She 
almost fell, but her foot pulled free, 
and she ran on. 

At the big front door the Peke 
guard looked at her with startled 
eyes, but he wasn’t quick enough to 
catch her. She was through the 
rough, board doorway and into the 
pebbled street, racing through the 
night toward the ship. . . . 

Halfway there Pip caught up. 
He threw his cloak around her, 
and they ran together, side by side. 

“Pip!” she sobbed gratefully. 
“Oh, Pip! What happened, Pip?” 

“That’s what I was going to ask 



WHEN THE SHOE FITS 

you. That Peke waltzed up to you 
like you were his one true love, and 
you went into those damn’ arms 
of his like you knew it. He started 
stamping around you, and you 
stood there, turning slowly to face 
him, smiling. . . . Gosh, we were 
scared 1” 

“Where’s Davis?” Alyn said in 
sudden alarm. 

“He wanted to film the Pekes’ 
reaction to your flight,” Pip said 
quickly. 

“You mean,” Alyn said, panting, 
“he was going to head them off 
if they got too close. You’re won- 
derful, you and Davis. I couldn’t 
have better teammates.” Team- 
mates, team mates. . . . But what 
about her soul mate? What about 
the Prince? 

She hadn’t answered Pip’s ques- 
tions, but then he hadn’t asked 
any. Not directly. They were there, 
close to his lips, and she couldn’t 
answer them. What she had been 
through was too real, too emotion- 
ally meaningful. She was still 
shaken. 

Suddenly she said, “Pip! I lost 
my shoe!” 

“Which shoe?” 

“The right shoe. The one with 
the unit in it!” 

Pip pulled them to a stop. 
“We’ve got to get it back!” 

But the hill was black with Pekes 
swarming after them like bees out 
of a disturbed hive. Pip muttered, 
“Nkiybe Davis picked it up.” And 
i hey ran again. 



53 

Eventually, long after Alyn had 
decided it would be easier to let the 
Pekes catch her than to draw an- 
other tortured breath, they reached 
the ship. They scrambled into it, 
and they waited. 

For hours the Pekes milled 
through the streets, searching for 
the impossible creatures who had 
impossibly disappeared. After they 
gave up, Alyn, Pip, and the Skip- 
per waited for Davis. And waited, 
not talking. And waited, afraid to 
hope. 

Just before dawn, he walked in, 
unruffled. They met him at the air 
lock. 

“Wow!” Davis said as he slipped 
out of his cloak and carefully hung 
it up. “They were ready to bite 
each other’s heads off. Did, as a 
matter of fact. The Prince acted 
like someone had hit him in the 
head with an axe.” 

Alyn watched his face intently, 
her green eyes unreadable. 

Impatiently, Pip said, “Did you 
get the shoe?” 

“What shoe?” Davis asked 
blankly. 

They sat around the living deck, 
three men and a woman, waiting 
for something to happen. Pip fid- 
dled with a micro-mechanism, do- 
ing more damage than good. Davis 
pretended to be interested in some 
tests he was running on an ore 
sample, but his gaze kept drifting 
toward the window. The Skipper 
leaned back in his favorite chair, 



54 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



his hands thrust deep into his pock- 
ets, not talking at all. Alyn sat in 
the window seat, staring at the 
street below. 

“What I can’t understand,” Davis 
said suddenly, not looking at Alyn, 
“is why she was going into that 
room with that Peke.” 

“That’s why I was there,” Alyn 
said absently; “to find out every- 
thing I could.” 

“We didn’t really intend for that 
to cover the possibility of cross- 
breeding,” Pip said slyly. “Logic- 
ally, this should be reported to the 
Bureau of Extraterrestrial Affairs.” 

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Alyn said, 
but her heart wasn’t in it. 

“You knew, of course,” Pip went 
on, his eyes studying Alyn in- 
tently, “that it was a symbolic mar- 
riage. After consummation, the 
bride is sacrified as the repository of 
the bridegroom’s youthful sins. He 
heads into manhood with a clean 
slate.” 

“What I can’t understand,” Davis 
said plaintively, “is how you ex- 
pected to get out of that room.” 

“Maybe she didn’t want to get 
out,” Pip said slowly. “And now the 
Prince is searching for her through- 
out the land.” 

Alyn turned sharply on Pip. 
“What’s that?” 

“He’s got that shoe of yours. He’s 
sent it around to all the workmen 
in the village to see if they made 
it.” Pip got up and walked to the 
window. He stared out. “He’s try- 
ing to find you, Al.” 



Alyn’s green eyes searched Pip’s 
face. 

“Let’s get out of here!” Davis 
exploded. “We’ve fouled this one 
up completely.” 

“No!” Alyn said. 

“Why?” said the Skipper. 

Alyn said flatly, “I changed my 
mind.” 

“Can’t anyway,” said the Skipper. 
“Bureau would quarantine Peking. 
Bar Company for good. Company’d 
fire us. No good. Two chances: 
Pekes Level 6 or get back shoe.” 

Pip said to Alyn, “Good think- 
ing!” 

“Shut up!” Alyn snapped. 

“What’s the matter with every- 
body?” Davis asked in bewilder- 
ment. “Nobody’s been himself since 
the ball. Alyn” — he flushed — 
“hasn’t been friendly. Pip has been 
picking on her. The Skipper hasn’t 
said a word. What’s the matter?” 

Nobody answered him. Pip 
shrugged, stared out the window, 
and began whistling After the Ball 
Is Over. 

“We’re waiting for the end of the 
story,” Alyn said. 

“And here he comes now,” Pip 
said. 

“Where?” Alyn said harshly. 

Pip pointed. “See where he comes 
with the shoe in his hand.” 

The Peke marched steadily, pur- 
posefully toward the ship. 

“Get this on film!” the Skipper 
snapped. 

Davis sprang to the control room 
ladder. 






55 



WHEN THE SHOE FITS 

The Peke got closer, became fore- 
shortened, and passed beneath the 
curve of the ship. They waited, 
breathless. Davis backed down the 
ladder. They whirled on him and 
then turned back to their vigil. 

The slow rasp of wood against 
metal drifted up to them. The 
Peke was climbing the ladder. The 
ship vibrated. Something rapped 
» against the air lock door. 

“Well?” Pip said. 

Impassively, the Skipper said, 

[ “Let it in.” 

A little, involuntary wail broke 

I from Alyn’s lips. “I can’t.” She 
turned blindly and ran to her room. 
“Pip,” she called back over her 
shoulder, “lock the door on that 
side.” 

She slammed the door behind 
her, slid the bolt across, and waited, 
her hand on it, until she heard the 
bolt outside click shut. It echoed 
in the little room with a grim final- 
| ity. She threw herself onto her 
bunk and bit the pillow to keep 
from screaming. 

Distantly she heard the air lock 
i opened below and then the slow 
clomp of feet on stair treads. Voices 
rumbled for a long time. Once she 
found herself at the door, her hand 
on the bolt, before she remembered 
[ that it was bolted on the other side, 
too. 

She threw herself back onto the 
bunk. 

Time dripped slowly in discreet 
seconds. Hours later the ship vi- 
brated again. This time the feet 



were descending. The air lock 
opened and closed and feet went 
down the ladder outside. Someone 
pounded at the door. 

“Alyn!” Davis shouted. “We’ve 
got it. The Skipper swears it will 
stand up in every court in the gal- 
axy. It’s Level 6.” 

Slowly, wearily, Alyn got up and 
went to the door. When she opened 
it, Davis was there, his face flushed 
and triumphant. He caught her 
around the waist, lifted her, swung 
her around, shouting, “Let’s cele- 
brate. We’re rich, we’re rich!” 

Finally he lowered her to the 
floor. Alyn said, “What hap- 
pened?” 

Pip said, “He figured it out. The 
Prince. The reports came back to 
him: none of the village workmen 
had made that unit in the slipper. 
None of them had ever seen any- 
thing like it. They could duplicate 
it, but they couldn’t have invented 
it. Q.E.D. — aliens. 

“He had the whole village ques- 
tioned, the results tabulated and 
compared, the discrepancies noted. 
Then he came here.” 

“Alone?” Alyn asked. “Un- 
armed?” 

Davis said happily, “He wants 
more gadgets like that one. They 
do magic. He’s ready to trade.” 

“What has he got to trade?” 
Alyn asked sharply. 

Pip said, “Skill. Peking is a mine 
of micro-skills waiting to be re- 
fined. They’ve been developing 



56 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



them for centuries with that intri- 
cate design work. All the Pekes 
need is a few simple tools and they 
can duplicate any micro-mechan- 
ism. They’re quick, smart, accu- 
rate. I told you that Fairfax Field 
micro-unit was worth its weight in 
tickets home — well, his workmen 
had made ten of them already.” 
“But the Pekes aren’t Level 6,” 
Alyn objected. 

“If deducing our presence from 
the shoe and locating us through 
comparative interviews isn’t Level 
6,” Davis said, “there isn’t a CQ 
test worth the computer it’s figured 
in.” 

The Skipper rumbled, “Proof, 
too. On film. Rich. All of us.” 

Alyn bit her full lower lip. 
“What — did he say — about me?” 
Slowly, watching her face, Pip 
shook his head. “He didn’t men- 
tion you. But he left this.” He 
tossed Alyn the slipper. 

She caught it without thinking 
and then turned it over slowly to 
look at it from all sides. 



“The foot the shoe fitted,” Pip 
said gently, “was his.” Pip’s eyes 
were unusually quiet and dark. 

Alyn nodded gravely and turned 
slowly back toward her cabin. 

Davis stopped smiling. “What’s 
the matter with her?” 

Pip shook his head impatiendy. 
“What I can’t understand,” Davis 
whispered, “is why she wanted her 
door locked from this side when 
the Peke was here.” 

Pip said sofdy, “She wasn’t afraid 
the Peke was coming after her. She 
knew he was. She was afraid he 
would ask her to go with him, and 
she wouldn’t be able to refuse.” 
“Go with a Peke!” Davis ex- 
claimed. 

“With a Prince,” Pip said. 

Alyn hesitated at the door. “Let’s 
get out of here!” she said harshly. 
“We got what we came after. Lefr’s 
get back to Earth.” 

Pip said, “And so they lived hap- 
pily ever after.” 

Cinderella cried half the long 
way home. 



ATQUE VALE 

Henry Kuttner died at Santa Monica, Calif., of a heart attack, February 
6, 1958. The loss of this witty, humane and dedicated writer will grieve 
everyone who knew him, whether in person, through the mails, or in 
print. At his death, (he was only 43) he left behind at least 200 stories and 
more than a score of novels, both under his own name and his huge 
roster of pen-names (including Lewis Padgett, Laurence O’Donnell and 
C. H. Liddell). 

Our condolences to his wife, C. L. Moore, who merged her own great 
qifts with his to produce much of the major work of the Kuttners. — JB 



No dreamy, impractical artists are wanted in a steel mill. 
Not, that is, unless what you want is — SuperSteel. 



THE STRAD EFFECT 

h 

Raymond F. Jones 



H ell must easily be as beauti- 
ful as Heaven, John Ward 
thought. At least, if a flowing 
stream of pure, molten steel is any 
symbol of Hell’s hot fury. 

He touched the crane controls 
with a gentle movement, upending 
a trifle more the massive ladle from 
which the white stream of steel 
emptied into the last of the moulds. 
It splashed over the edge as the 
mould filled to the top, and ran 
momentarily in a million points of 
fire on the pouring floor. 

But the ladle was empty and this 
was the end of the shift. John 
Ward righted the ladle and swung 
it high, rolling the entire crane on 
its track to the end of the room. 
He turned off the power and tucked 
his glasses in his back pocket. He 
snapped his gloves together in his 
left hand, and filled out the day’s 
log- 

He glanced at the still-glowing 
moulds as he climbed down the 
ladder to the floor. This was going 



to be a good batch of steel, he 
thought. The best ever. 

Intermountain Steel was a small 
outfit as steel companies go. But 
what it lacked in size it made up 
in vigor. It had an engineering de- 
partment that believed steel was 
still as crude as clay, compared with 
what it ought to be in hardness 
and tensile strength. It had an ad- 
vertising department that believed 
steel could be sold like cigarettes 
on TV, and it had a president. Jack 
Cochran, who believed in letting 
men do what they had enthusiasm 
for. 

That’s why Intermountain had a 
laboratory that would have done 
credit to a plant four times its size. 
Chief Test Engineer Mike Willard 
believed in production controls that 
had teeth. 

When he went out for lunch he 
glanced through the glass panels of 
the lab where technician Wade 
Beck sat hunched on a high stool 



58 



THE STRAD EFFECT 



59 



beside the giant hydraulic stress 
machine. Willard remembered that 
Beck had been sitting exactly that 
way at ten a.m. 

When the Test Engineer came 
back from lunch the technician still 
had not moved. Willard entered the 
lab. 

“You posing for a life study or 
something? You’ve been on that 
stool since ten o’clock this morn- 
ing!” 

Beck looked up, then slowly 
handed a clip board with a figure 
covered sheet to his Chief. “It’s not 
easy for a man to admit he’s slip- 
ping off his rocker.” 

Willard glanced at the figures. 
“There’s something wrong with the 
machine.” 

Beck shook his head. “I’ve 
checked it over a dozen times. I’ve 
switched gauges until I’ve used 
every one in the place. They all 
check to the umpteenth place.” 
Willard clapped him on the 
shoulder. “Take off for lunch and 
come back this afternoon. You’ll 
find the bug.” He sighed thought- 
fully. “This would be wonderful if 
it were true— a steel with a tensile 
strength eighty thousand pounds 
higher than the best we’ve ever 
turned out of this shop before.” 
“That gives me an idea!” Beck 
exclaimed. “I’m going to run some 
of our old stock, just to check on 
the machine. Maybe there is some- 
thing new here!” 

“Not that new. We’ll have to 
send out for some gauges if you 



don’t find the trouble soon. We 
want those tests by tomorrow fore- 
noon. But go on out for lunch now, 
and clear the cranium.” 

Beck ignored the advice. He 
went to the stock room and got 
some samples of cold rolled rod 
from the batch he had tested two 
days before. He inserted the sample 
in the stress machine and stepped 
behind the shield to turn the power 
on. 

Slowly, the needles of the gauges 
advanced as the stress increased. 
Beck watched it edge toward the 
normal reading for that type of 
metal. He glanced up once at the 
bar that was gradually thinning 
under the tremendous tension 
drawing it apart. 

And then it snapped with a sing- 
ing whine. Beck glanced at the 
graph that plotted the peak stress. 
It stood exactly at the point re- 
corded for the batch two days ago. 

He paused, his breath coming 
more heavily now. There was noth- 
ing wrong with the gauges. He was 
sure of that. 

Swiftly, he replaced the sample 
with another specimen from the 
batch he’d been testing all morn- 
ing. Behind the shield once again, 
he watched the tension mount. It 
crawled to the level at which the 
previous rod had broken— and was 
still going. 

He watched it climb. Ten thou- 
sand pounds higher. Twenty. He 
peered out at the rod, which had 
thinned a little, but showed no 



60 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



signs of breaking yet. He leaned 
back, refusing to participate in the 
test with his personal reflexes any 
longer. He moved only once to re- 
set the pen of the recorder as it 
moved off scale, as it had been 
doing all morning. 

Then, at an incredible eighty-two 
thousand pounds above the pre- 
vious reading, he heard the thin, 
screaming note of the parting steel. 

There was nothing wrong with 
the machine or the gauges. They 
had a steel like no steel that had 
ever been seen before. 

Jack Cochran was there, and 
Mike Willard. Thompson, and 
Manning, two of the floor foremen 
stood in the background. Pete 
Roberts, head of Sales, was moving 
around the desk, feeling one sam- 
ple after another, as if some kind 
of magic would rub off on his 
own hands from the precious stuff. 
His eyes were glowing. 

Wade Beck was describing for 
the twentieth time the sequence of 
tests and their results. This was a 
matter of form; all the others had 
witnessed some tests. 

“When we announce this in the 



trade,” Pete Roberts said excitedly 
as Beck finished, “there’s going to 
be some reshuffling at the top of the 
pile. Little old Intermountain is 
going to tell U.S. Steel and some 
of the other boys to move over. We 
can charge our own price for this, 
and customers will be standing in 
line. A decrease in tonnage will 
make it compare in total cost with 
what they’ve already been using, 
but they’ll be coming to Intcrmoun- 
tain for a better product!” 

“The patent department will 
have to consider this, first,” said 
Cochran mildly. 

“Look,” Willard exclaimed in 
weariness. “Can’t you get it through 
your heads that we have nothing 
to patent? We have nothing to sell! 
This thing is a freak. We don’t 
know how this steel was made. We 
don’t know if we can ever make 
another batch like it.” 

“Let me look at those logs again,” 
Cochran asked Thompson. 

The foreman passed them over 
and Cochran turned the pages 
slowly for the dozenth time. He 
shook his head. “There seems to 
be absolutely no variation in the 
charge that went into the furnace 



RAYMOND F. JONES has been turning out speculative fiction 
since 1941. A former radio engineer and present government 
meteorologist, he specializes in “ pure " s-f, in which all the facts 
are straight and the central dramatic actor is the idea. He is the 
author of two adult novels, “ Renaissance " and “ This Island Earth”; 
the latter was made into a movie. He has also written a teen-age 
novel, ‘‘The Secret People” ( Avalon Boo\s). 



THE STRAD EFFECT 



61 



on those shifts. Are you sure you 
personally watched these charges 
and they looked normal to you?’’ 

Thompson nodded. “Not a cin- 
der went into that furnace that 
wasn’t strictly according to Hoyle. 
It was charged just like I’ve been 
charging furnaces for twenty years. 
You can’t blame me.” 

“We’re not blaming you,” Coch- 
ran said with a wry smile. “We’d 
like to credit you with discovering 
something no steelman has ever 
seen before. But we seem to have 
a complete mystery on our hands. 
A new steel, stronger than any- 
thing of its kind in history. And 
nobody knows how it was made!” 

“What does that matter?” Pete 
Roberts said. “As long as we’ve got 
it we can sell it!” 

“How do you know you’ll ever 
get another batch like this?” Wil- 
lard demanded angrily. 

“Why shouldn’t we?” Roberts’ 
eyes were wide and innocent. He 
left production problems to those 
who understood them. “Nobody 
knows what keeps his own heart 
ticking— but he keeps on using it 
as long as he can and doesn’t worry 
because he knows it’s going to stop. 
I say let’s sell this stuff while it’s 
coming out.” 

“We’ve certainly got something 
here that we could market,” 
Cochran said soberly, “if we knew 
we had a constant supply. But I’m 
inclined to agree with Willard. We 
ought to know more about what 
made this batch different, before 



we make any announcement, even 
to our own Directors. Continue 
the production tests,” he said to 
Willard, “and stockpile any more 
that comes out like this. After a 
week or so we’ll see what it looks 
like and go from there. Be sure 
you get a double check on every 
charge that goes in. We want to 
know exactly what this stuff is 
made of even if we don’t know 
how.” 

It gave Willard a kind of per- 
verse satisfaction that the next 
batch tested was entirely normal. 
By some incredible fluke, he 
thought, they had been given a 
glimpse into a kind of metallurgi- 
cal heaven. But now the heavens 
were closed and they could expect 
no more visions like this. 

The batch after that tested ninety- 
one thousand pounds per square 
inch above normal. 

They instituted a weighing and 
watching procedure that measured 
the charges going into the furnaces 
down to the last gram. They had 
all logs triple checked and signed. 
No one’s observations were to be 
trusted without verification. 

It seemed to make no difference 
which of the four furnaces was in- 
volved. During the next two weeks 
there were batches that tested high 
in tensile strength, and there were 
batches that tested normal. And 
both kinds came from all the fur- 
naces. 

At the end of the second week, 



62 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



Cochran reviewed the reports as 
a second conference was called. “It’s 
baffling,” he said, “but it looks as 
if we’ve got something we can 
count on. About one third of our 
production of steel is high tensile 
strength. The production curve 
seems to be regular — in its own 
spotty way.” 

“Then we can start a sales cam- 
paign right away?” Roberts asked. 

“I’m inclined to favor it, on the 
basis that we are offering the re- 
sults of new and limited produc- 
tion methods. Don’t try to build it 
too big to start with. It’s a risky 
thing to be doing, without any 
more knowledge than we’ve got. 
But on the other hand, it would be 
senseless not to sell what we’ve got 
for what it is.” 

“I’m against it,” Willard said. 
“It’s completely crazy. We can’t go 
to steel users and tell them we’ve 
got something to sell that may be 
cut off any minute.” 

“We can’t go on stockpiling this 
much of our production indefi- 
nitely,” said Cochran. “It’s either 
sell it for what it is, or push it out 
with the rest of our production 
without saying anything about it. 
That doesn’t make very good sense 
either, does it?” 

Willard shook his head. “I don’t 
know the answer. I only know 
we’re caught no matter which way 
wc move.” 

He had to admit that Roberts’ 
production was a masterpiece of the 
advertiser’s misguided art. “Out of 



the Crucible of Superior Scientific 
Effort Comes the Miracle of a 
Metallurgical Milestone!” 

His ads went on with quite a 
description of the sweat and blood 
of Intermountain Steel’s scientific 
staff which had gone into the 
making of SuperSteel, his name 
for their unexpected miracle. He 
backed it up with charts and tables 
of the tests they had run. 

The result was literally instan- 
taneous. The office was swamped 
with orders for the new steel, and 
the laboratories were swamped 
with scientific inquiries concerning 
their methods of production. 

The patent department was no 
happier about the situation than 
Willard was, but they had to admit 
you couldn’t patent something you 
didn’t know how you made. Every- 
body kept quiet on the subject. The 
scientists were put off with the 
story that the production methods 
were not ready to be revealed for 
legal reasons. 

At the end of three days the 
stockpile of SuperSteel was de- 
pleted, and orders were being taken 
on a rationing basis for future pro- 
duction. 

Willard knew they were sitting 
on a pile of dynamite. And the 
same day they shipped the last ton 
of SuperSteel from the yard his 
worst fears came true. 

Out of a full twenty-four hours’ 
production there was not an ounce 
of SuperSteel. 

They stayed up all night watch- 



THE STRAD EFFECT 



ing the next runs. Nothing had 
changed in the routine. Nobody 
said anything to anybody. They 
just watched. 

When batches were finally pre- 
pared for testing, out of those runs, 
they were all present once more. 
There was still little conversation 
except about the weather and the 
Yanks’ batting. In silence they 
watched the needles and the graphs 
as Beck and Willard put in the 
samples and applied the stress. 
Every one snapped at normal 
limits. 

“It looks like we’ve had it,” 
Willard said. “It was a good thing 
while it lasted. Now all we need 
' is a digestive system that can handle 
; crow for a good, long time.” 

“Nuts!” Roberts snapped. “You 
j, guys are engineers. You’re sup- 
: posed to know how steel is made. 
| You made SuperSteel once. You 
! can do it again. Where’s the guts of 
i this outfit?” 

Cochran smiled tolerantly. “I’m 
afraid this is one case where the 
pep talk and the old college try 

I won’t do, Pete. We know every- 
thing that went into SuperSteel. 
We know every factor affecting its 
I production. Every one!” 

[ “Except the one that gave it the 
tensile strength it had,” said Pete. 

“Maybe you’re right there,” 
Cochran conceded, “but if that’s 
true, it’s a factor that can’t be 
weighed, measured, or observed in 
any known manner. We couldn’t 
produce another ounce of Super- 



, 63 

Steel if our lives depended on it — 
except by accident.” 

“That last batch of tungsten — 
maybe it wouldn’t hurt to add an- 
other tenth—” Thompson muttered 
lamely. 

“No!” Willard snapped. “That’s 
the one thing we must not do now 
—tinker with the charge and the 
alloy percentages. We’ve got to find 
out why we got SuperSteel with the 
formula we used or we won’t find 
out anything!” 

“I agree with that,” said Cochran. 
“Let’s stick to the routine that pro- 
duced SuperSteel until we get some 
more. It’s all we can do, outside of 
continued analysis of what we 
made to see why it’s so tough.” 

“And my next ad was a doozy!” 
Roberts complained. “Now I guess 
I’ve got to kill it. What’re we going 
to do with the orders we’ve ac- 
cepted?” 

“That’s your problem,” said 
Willard as he turned to the door. 
“You were so anxious to get them. 
Let’s see you take care of them.” 

The whole thing was like one 
of those dreams where you cavort 
with houris on some south sea 
island all through_the night, and 
then wake up to a morning of cold 
drizzle outside, a mouth like an 
old flannel jacket, and the wife 
gone home to Mother for two 
weeks. 

It just hadn’t happened. If there 
were not a few samples in the test- 
ing lab he would never believe that 



64 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



SuperSteel had existed, Willard 
thought. 

He was thinking that as he sat 
in the company cafeteria at noon. 
There was an executives’ table 
where the gold badge boys were 
supposed to get priority service and 
quality, but Willard preferred to 
sit with the men from the mill. 
Somehow, the toughest cuts of 
meat, the wateriest soup, and the 
stalest bread seemed to find its way 
down the exec table. Willard felt 
in a mood to go back to the kitchen 
and find out just how that was 
managed. 

His mood was interrupted by Dr. 
Lloyd Evans, the Director of Per- 
sonnel and Counseling at Inter- 
mountain. Evans sat down and 
drew the menu toward him. “Too 
bad about this SuperSteel fluke,” 
he said. “It would have been nice 
if you could have caught it before 
it played out. Have any idea why?” 

“It’s not supposed to be out yet,” 
Willard said, suspiciously. “Where 
did you get it?” 

“You pick things up around a 
place like this. They’re hard to 
hide. Think you’re going to find 
the answer?” 

Willard shook his head. “We’ve 
checked on everything. We’ve 
measured the batches down to the 
last milligram. Temperatures to the 
hundredth of a degree. No varia- 
bles. But no SuperSteel.” 

“How about personnel? Made 
any check on them?” 

“What do you mean ? The same 



crew’s been with us all through 
the thing. Thompson , Manning, 
Hartley-” 

“They’re your foremen and crew 
chiefs. You know them, sure. But 
how about all the boys on the 
floor ? ” 

Willard shrugged. “I don’t know. 
They’re all the same as far as I 
know. You think somebody new 
could have been hired and might 
be sabotaging the production? 
That’s out! Such a thing would be 
impossible.” 

“Why don’t you make a check, 
just for the heck of it?” 

Willard hesitated over refusal of 
the ridiculous notion, then gave in 
and beckoned for a plug-in phone 
to be brought to the table. He called 
Personnel. “Get me any employ- 
ment changes on the furnace crew 
and pouring floor during the past 
week.” 

“Better include the lab staff, too,” 
Evans said. 

In a moment Willard had the 
information. He hung up and put 
the phone aside. “Just as I told you. 
Nothing’s changed. Only one man 
has left, John Ward, a craneman. 
And his place has been filled by 
moving up another employee. 
There’s nobody new in contact 
with SuperSteel production — or, 
rather, lack of it." 

“John Ward—’’ Evans said 
thoughtfully. “College boy, as I 
recall. Been working in steel every 
summer while going to school. Did 
Ward pour all the batches that 



THE STRAD EFFECT 



came out as SuperSteel ?” 

“How the hell should I know 
that, either?” 

“Find out.” 

Willard hesitated on the verge of 
refusal a second time, then reached 
for the phone with a patronizing 
gesture, as. if to pamper a childish 
whim of his associate. This time he 
had to check the batch numbers of 
SuperSteel against the personnel 
working the various shifts at the 
time SuperSteel appeared. It took 
longer. 

At last he hung up and looked 
across the table at Evans. “All right. 
Ward poured every batch of Super- 
Steel. Nobody else. But that doesn’t 
prove a thing. A craneman couldn’t 
affect the quality of a batch of steel 
even if he wanted to.” 

The psychologist smiled. “It’s the 
only variable factor you’ve found 
so far. You don’t have to take my 
advice, but I’d say that if you’re 
smart you’ll get Ward back here. 
Just to pour one batch for you, if 
nothing more.” 

“This is the first time I ever had 
lunch with a lunatic!” 

The idea had a crazy, gnawing 
quality that wouldn’t let go. Willard 
spent the afternoon personally su- 
pervising the charging of Number 
Two and Number Four. He re- 
viewed the logs of previous charges, 
all the way back to the last time 
SuperSteel came from these fur- 
naces. It was as Evans had said: 
Ward, the craneman, was the only 



65 

variable he could find in the whole 
chain of factors. 

At a couple minutes to five he 
called the personnel office again. 
“Miss Jensen— Willard of Test Lab 
—get me the file on John Ward 
who quit as craneman last week. 
Find out if he left a forwarding 
address.” 

While he waited, he reminded 
himself again that only an idiot 
would go this far, and that he 
wasn’t going to carry it one step 
further. 

“Mr. Ward left to attend classes 
at CalTech,” said Miss Jensen. “I 
have his address in care of the 
school, if you want it.” 

As soon as he had written down 
the information, Willard wadded 
up the slip of paper and threw it 
in the nearest wastebasket. He 
walked out of the room feeling like 
a free man. 

At ten o’clock that night he 
finally made telephone contact with 
John Ward at his dormitory ad- 
dress. The former craneman sound- 
ed wary, Willard thought. 

“This is Mr. Willard, of Inter- 
mountain Steel,” said the engineer. 
“I understand you were operating 
the crane on the pouring floor for 
us this summer.” 

“Yes.” 

“We’ve got a new man on the 
job, and there seems to be some 
trouble with the machinery. All 
our mechanics have had a look at 
it without finding anything wrong, 
but it still won’t work right.” 



66 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



“I didn’t have any trouble when 
I was running it,” said Ward. 

“That’s what everyone tells me— 
that you could make it behave like 
a trained kitten. I know it sounds 
crazy, but we’ve tried everything 
else, and there might be some per- 
sonal gimmick in the method of 
operation you used. It would be a 
great favor to us if you would come 
out and take over a shift, just to 
satisfy our feelings about this.” 
“I’m afraid there would be 
trouble if I did that,” said Ward. 
“Mr. Masovitch told me he’d per- 
sonally unhook my neck from my 
backbone if I ever set foot in the 
Intermountain plant again.” 
“Masovitch? The foreman?” 
“Yes.” 

“Why?” 

“He just didn’t like the way I 
did some things.” 

“Then you didn’t quit— you were 
fired?” 

“I expected to work another 
quarter before coming back to 
school. But it’s all right. I’m rather 
glad Mr. Masovitch fired me, now.” 
“Listen, don’t worry about Maso- 
vitch. We want you to come back 
and help us out now. We’ll pay all 
your expenses, including travel by 
plane, and will give you a hundred 
dollars for the shift. You can make 
it on the week-end when you’re 
free of classwork. Better still, if you 
need to work some more, why don’t 
you come on back until you’re 
really ready to start school?” 

“I couldn’t do that. Everything 



is under way here now. But I can’t 
very well turn down your special 
deal. I’ll see you Sunday morning, 
if that’s all right with you.” 

“I’ll meet you at the airport!” 

“Don’t let Mr. Masovitch hear 
about this.” 

Willard was glad it was Sunday. 
He should have thought of that, 
himself. Few, if any, of the execu- 
dve staff would be around. He 
might be able to get Ward in and 
out of the plant without anyone 
being particularly aware of his 
presence. He hoped so. He’d hate 
to have to explain to Cochran— or 
anyone else— why he was doing this. 

He met the plane at a quarter to 
six Sunday morning, and picked 
up John Ward personally. He re- 
membered seeing him around the 
plant, and liking his looks. 

Ward was smiling as he stepped 
off the plane. “I’m sure I don’t 
know what I can do for you, Mr. 
Willard. But it was a nice trip 
over.” 

“We’ll see,” said Willard, “We 
appreciate your coming. Nothing’s 
lost, even if you aren’t able to help 
us.” 

They got into Willard’s car. 
“This sounds funny, I guess,” he 
said. “Don’t be afraid to say so, be- 
cause we feel the same way about 
it. The only thing is, we’ve tried 
everything else except tearing down 
the whole machine.” 

There was a little wait, after they 
reached the plant and climbed to 



THIS STRAD EFFECT 



67 



the crane cab. But Number One 
and Number Three were ready for 
tapping this morning. Ward tried 
the controls while they waited. “I 
don’t see anything wrong,” he said. 
“She’s working just the same as 
when I left.” 

Willard nodded. “I don’t know. 
Just go ahead and put her through 
her paces in your usual way.” 

He sat beside Ward through the 
morning hours as they watched the 
first white trickle of liquid fire 
burst from the furnaces and turn 
to a volcanic fury. He sensed the 
delicate touch of Ward’s hands on 
the controls as the crane moved 
carefully above the bright hell be- 
low them. One by one the moulds 
filled, the color slowly dying in 
them. 

“There’s not a thing wrong with 
this crane,” said Ward as he fin- 
ished Number One. “You must 
have had a moron trying to run it.” 
“Jakes was handling her.” 

“That explains it. Get a man 
with some brains.” 

Ward finished the shift alone. 
Willard went back to his office and 
waited in solitude. He was aware 
for the first time that his hands 
were wet with sweat, and the back 
of his shirt was soaked. And it 
wasn’t from the heat of the pouring 
floor. He was just plain jittery, 
wondering what those billets would 
turn out to be when they were 
cured, rolled, tempered, tested— 
Ward thanked him for the check 
for pay and expenses when the 



shift was over. “I’ll do that any 
week-end you like,” he said, grin- 
ning. “But all you need to do is 
get that dope off the crane and 
she’ll run all by herself.” 

Willard found it hard to sleep 
until samples of the batch could 
be tested. He forced himself to re- 
main in his office the day they were 
tested. He got the results by phone. 

Ward’s batches were a long way 
from SuperSteel. They were slight- 
ly below normal, for the most part. 

Evans looked up from his desk 
as Willard entered. “Well, it was 
a good idea, but it was a bust,” the 
engineer said. “I got Ward here, 
as you suggested.” 

“I saw you driving in Sunday 
morning. The tests weren’t any 
good?” 

Willard shook his head with a 
smile. “You didn’t really think they 
would be, did you? I guess I must 
have let myself get a litde balmy, 
going for a proposition like that. 
Anyway, you can’t say I haven’t 
been willing to try everything.” He 
turned to go. 

“Wait a minute.” Evans got up 
from behind his desk and came 
toward the engineer. “This should 
have worked. You haven’t got any 
other variables, have you?” 

“No. But we’ll find some!" 

“Any idea where to look?” 

“No. But I know where we’re 
not going to look— not any more.” 
“Tell me about Ward. Every- 
thing you noticed.” 



68 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



“Look— I’ve got work to do!” 

“You haven’t any other variables, 
remember.” 

In disgust, Willard recited every- 
thing he could remember about 
the young engineer-craneman, his 
looks, his manner, his attitude. 

“You say Masovitch fired him?” 
Evans said wonderingly. “Can you 
imagine what for? Masovitch is a 
good steelman. If Ward is as good 
a craneman as you say, why did 
Masovitch fire him?” 

“Who knows? And what dif- 
ference does it make? Personal 
grudges come up without any ra- 
tional foundation all the time. You 
personnel people know more about 
that than I do.” 

Evans nodded. “And from all 
you tell me there was absolutely 
no basis for Ward’s firing. Why 
don’t we go down and ask Maso- 
vitch himself?” 

“I’ve got more important things 
to do!” 

But Willard allowed himself to 
be led to the foreman’s cubicle. 
The big Polish foreman was going 
over his production figures as 
Evans entered. “We just wanted 
to ask a few questions about one 
of the men who used to work for 
you,” said the psychologist. “Fellow 
named John Ward.” 

Masovitch spat into the corner 
beyond his desk. “That nut? Why 
would anybody want to know any- 
thing about him?” 

“You think he’s a nut, huh? 
Why?” 



“Because he is, that’s why. Crazy 
as they come. One day he won’t 
pour steel because the wind’s blow- 
ing too hard outside. Next day he 
won’t pour because it isn’t blowing 
at all. Or maybe it’s too hot, or too 
cold. Jeez, you’d think he had a 
little crystal ball up there in the 
cab, telling him what to do. He 
even started telling us how to tap 
the furnaces!” 

Evans glanced at Willard. “He 
was a pretty crazy character, eh?” 
he said to the foreman. “When did 
you first notice this? Ever since 
he first came?” 

“No— no, he was a nice kid at 
first. Wanted to do everything just 
right, just the way you told him. 
Then he went nuts all of a sudden, 
like I told you. You can’t make 
steel with guys like that. You’re 
going to look up some day and find 
’em pouring a ladle full of hot 
metal down the back of your 
neck!” 

“Was this about the time that 
SuperSteel began to be produced?” 

Masovitch looked thoughtful, as 
if going back in time to that re- 
markable event. “About then, I 
guess,” he said matter-of-faedy. 
“Right about that time. Say, when 
are we going to get some more 
batches like that? That was real 
great stuff!” 

Evans walked back along the 
corridor that took Willard to his 
test lab. Neither spoke until they 
reached the doorway to Willard’s 
office. 



THU STRAD EFFECT 



69 



“You’d better get Ward back 
here,” Evans said finally. “Get him 
to do exactly and whatever crazy 
thing he was doing when Super- 
Steel came out. You’ll never sleep 
easy until you do.” 

“Now you’re trying to tell me a 
nut was responsible for Super- 
Steel!” 

“Ward didn’t look like a nut to 
you, did he? I thought you said he 
was quite a serious young student.” 
“He appeared that way.” 

“You ever hear of a man named 
Stradivarius?” said Evans slowly. 
“The fiddle maker?” 

“The same,” said Evans. “For 
about a century and a half, people 
have been trying to make violins 
as good as Stradivarious made 
them. Nobody has done it yet.” 
“Now wait a minute—” 

“The varnish has been analyzed, 
the wood has been identified, the 
measurements have been taken. 
Everything that could possibly have 
gone into the making of Stradi- 
varius violins has been measured, 
weighed and duplicated as near as 
is physically possible. But they just 
don’t play the same.” 

“What are you trying to tell me?” 
Willard felt an unaccountable an- 
ger rising. 

“Just what made a Strad violin 
so good that it can’t be duplicated 
after all these years of trying?” 
“How in hell should I know? 
You just said everything’s been 
analyzed without finding out.” 
“And that’s all anybody can say. 



But suppose Stradivarious just 
wanted his violins to be better than 
any other violins ever made.” 
“He’d have to do a lot more than 
just want—” 

“Suppose somebody— John Ward, 
say — just wanted the steel he 
worked on to be the best ever 
made—” 

“You’re absolutely and com- 
pletely off your rocker. Why don’t 
you go see a head shrinker?” said 
Willard quietly. 

The two men let their eyes lock 
without speaking for a full thirty 
seconds. Then Evans resumed 
slowly. “John Ward knows how to 
make SuperSteel. He doesn’t know 
that he knows, but he does.” 

“He doesn’t do anything to it!” 
“Yes, he does. He pours it from 
a furnace ladle into a mould. He’s 
a part of the production process, 
and while playing that small part 
he gets into the batch that ingre- 
dient that makes a steel such as 
the world has never seen. Don’t 
you want to know how he does it?” 
"But if he doesn’t even know—” 
Evans nodded. “That’s the catch. 
Stradivarius didn’t know how he 
produced his wonderful violins, 
either. He never taught anybody 
else how to do it. Did you ever 
watch one of these computing 
geniuses at work? I saw a Swiss 
farm girl once who could multiply 
twenty digit numbers in thirty 
seconds flat. She could recite every- 
thing she’d ever read, word for 
word. Otherwise, she was a dolt.” 



70 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



“John Ward’s no dolt.” 

“That’s where we’re lucky. He 
may be capable of the kind of in- 
trospection that will reveal how he 
does it. Or the talent may sink com- 
pletely out of sight the moment he 
realizes he has it.” 

“We don’t even know if he has 
it!” 

“Get him back here. Perman- 
ently. We’ll put every kind of test 
on him we can think of until he 
becomes suspicious. We won’t tell 
him what’s up until he does. Then 
we’ll tell, and see what happens to 
his ability. 

“Maybe he won’t even believe 
it.” 

“That, in itself, may be enough 
to wipe it out.” 

Willard moved along slowly to 
a corridor window that looked out 
on the plant’s great coke ovens. 
“I’m afraid I’m the one that’s never 
going to believe this thing, no mat- 
ter what evidence I’m shown. How 
could it be possible?” 

There was still a major problem 
that remained unsolved, Willard 
realized as he left Evans. Money. 
He went directly to the office of 
the President. He strode past Doro- 
thy, the receptionist Cochran had 
hired chiefly as artwork. 

“The Boss in?” Willard said. 

“No appointments this afternoon, 
Mr. Willard. Mr. Cochran gave 
me strict instructions. Mr. Wil- 
lard-!” 

He was already in. Cochran 



frowned in the middle of a phone 
conversation with someone in New 
York. The engineer looked out the 
window until he heard the phone 
replaced. 

“You’ve always said you believe 
in letting a man do his job in his 
own way,” he said. 

Cochran hesitated warily. “That’s 
the philosophy I’ve tried to follow 
from this office. What’s on your 
mind, Willard?” 

“A hundred thousand dollars 
for a special project I think will 
be worth it.” 

“You’re not talking peanuts, even 
for these days of reputed excess 
profits. What the hell do you want 
a hundred grand for?” 

“That has to be my secret.” 
“Isn’t that letting the crust rise 
pretty thick? I have to account for 
the way I run this plant.” 

“You wouldn’t authorize it if 
you knew what I wanted it for.” 
“SuperSteel?” 

“Yes.” 

“You think it’ll solve the prob- 
lem?” 

“No— not really.” 

“Then what—?” 

“It’s something that’s got to be 
tried. Something I’ve got to try 
before we say it can’t be done. 
That’s all I’m going to say about 
it.” 

Cochran frowned irritably. “It’s 
going to be a red-letter day when 
I finally find a good enough ex- 
cuse to fire you. Go ahead, set up 
your project file. The money’ll be 






71 



THE STRAD EFFECT 

allotted. But I expect to see a 
hundred thousand dollars worth of 
results!” 

Willard reached John Ward by 
phone again late that night. The 
former craneman recognized his 
voice at once. 

“Hello, Mr. Willard,” he said 
happily. “You need me for any 
more hundred dollar shifts on the 
crane?” 

“Yes, as a matter of fact, quite 
a few.” 

“I’m sorry, I was only kidding.” 
“I wasn’t,” said Willard. “How 
[ would you like to come back and 
I work for Intermountain on a steady 
job for a year, Ward?” 

“I’m afraid I couldn’t do that. 
I intend to finish school and then 
go into metallurgical engineering.” 
“You didn’t ask about the salary. 
We’d pay you enough so that you 
I could finish school without worry- 
f ing about part time and summer 
■ work.” 

“How much?” 

“Fifty thousand dollars.” 

“For one year?” 

“We’ll sign a contract on it.” 
There was a long period of sil- 
ence at the other end. Finally, 
Ward came back. “You want me 
to work just as a craneman?” 
“Most of the time. There might 
be a chance to do a little lab work 
on occasion, but it would be mostly 
on the crane.” 

“I don’t know, Mr. Willard,” 
Ward said. "It’s like asking me to 
sell a piece of my life. It’s a ques- 



tion whether the price is worth it 
in terms of what I want to do.” 
“We’ll make it seventy-five thou- 
sand dollars, Ward. What is it that 
you want to do?” 

“I want to be a scientist. I want 
to know everything there is to 
know about metals— why they hold 
together, why some are strong and 
some are weak, why some conduct 
electricity and some resist it. I want 
to know their molecules as well as 
if I could see them, and put them 
together, like blocks, in any shape 
and form and strength I choose.” 
And perhaps you already can, 
Willard thought soberly. Why do 
you thinly you must go to school 
to learn those things? 

“We’d like to help you realize 
those ambitions and dreams,” he 
said aloud. “Money isn’t everything, 
but it sure helps a lot.” 

“I don’t understand why you’re 
willing to pay me this. There’s 
something important you haven’t 
told me.” 

“I’m reserving the right to with- 
hold that information until the end 
of the year. I can guarantee it’s 
honorable and honest, but I can’t 
tell you what it is.” 

“You make it sound very mys- 
terious.” 

“You’ll be asked to do nothing 
for Intermountain that you have 
not done before.” 

“Let me sleep on it.” 

“We know about Mr. Maso- 
vitch,” said Willard slowly. “He 
told us why he fired you. You 






72 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



won’t have any more trouble with 
him. You can proceed just as be- 
fore. If the wind isn’t right, you 
can wait until it is. If it’s too cold, 
you can wait until the sun comes 
up farther.” 

He heard Ward’s breath suck 
sharply at the other end of the line. 
The man’s voice was filled with 
quiet excitement when he spoke 
again. 

“I’ll be there day after tomor- 
row,” he said. 

The production of SuperSteel 
resumed with the first batch he 
poured. 

“How is he?” Evans asked. 
“Does this present setup seem to 
affect his attitude or the quality of 
the steel?” 

“The first batch he poured ran 
only seventy-eight thousand p.s.i. 
above normal, but everything since 
then has gone over eighty, where it 
used to be.” 

“He knows what he’s doing,” 
said Evans. “He knows why we 
brought him back.” 

“You think so?” 

“He’d be an idiot not to recog- 
nize it. Why do you think he does 
all those crazy tricks of timing his 
pours and adjusting to the 
weather?” 

Willard shook his head. “Eccen- 
tric. Or crazy, I guess. Whatever 
you want to call it. But as long as 
it doesn’t hurt the steel, I guess we 
can put up with it. Production goes 
down when he wants to wait, but 



we can afford that for the amount 
of SuperSteel we’re getting.” 

“Did it ever occur to you that 
maybe that is the way he makes 
SuperSteel?” 

“By waiting on the weather? By 
timing his pour according to that 
weird formula he uses?” 

“Yes.” 

“I guess I’m willing to listen to 
anything,” said Willard sadly. “I 
never believed Ward had anything 
to do with it in the first place. 
Now, all I care about is learning 
how. If you say his shenanigans are 
responsible, I’m willing to be 
shown.” 

“It’s not that easy.” Evans shook 
his head. “That’s the part I don’t 
think Ward understands himself. 
He’s just shooting in the dark, but 
he’s hitting pretty close!” 

“Someday I’m going to wake up 
and discover this was all a beauti- 
ful nightmare!” 

Evans growled irritably at Wil- 
lard’s persistent refusal to accept 
the obvious. “Does Cochran know 
about Ward yet?” 

Willard shook his head. “I don’t 
think he’s noticed. I’ve told Ward 
nobody is to know about the deal 
except you and me. I don’t know 
how long he’ll hold still for that 
kind of treatment, but he’s signed 
the contract. What do we do if we 
can’t tell him why he’s here— or 
that we know he knows already?” 
Evans smiled. “We don’t want to 
play ostrich indefinitely. I just 
want a substantial period in which 



THE STRAD EFFECT 



73 



to observe him as he now functions, 
without disturbing him by obvious 
study.” 

‘‘It’s out of my hand now,” said 
Willard, rising. “We’ve applied 
every test and measurement we 

( know in order to find out what 
r goes into this steel. We don’t know 
j any more than when we started. 

It’s up to you to pull it out of 
i Ward. If you need help by way of 
f ,a staff, we can still get something 
in the budget.” 

1' “I may need plenty before this 
[ is over!” 

President Cochran was pleased 
; enough that SuperSteel production 
had resumed, but its previous de- 
t cline had taught him they were on 
I shaky ground. He vetoed a resump- 
P tion of the massive trade campaign 
that Roberts wanted to get under 
f way again. 

He stood with Willard and 
Roberts overlooking the pouring 
floor while the sales chief protested 
1 they were losing the opportunity of 
a lifetime. 

.. “We’re not going to get caught 
in the kind of jam we had before,” 
; Cochran said. “We’ll fill some of 
‘ the back orders that weren’t taken 
pare of, and let it be known by 
i word of mouth that we have small 
[ amounts available to our old cus- 
tomers. That will take care of all 
we can turn out until we find out 
the how of this thing.” 
t “We could put in more furnace 
J capacity. Double production!” Rob- 



erts protested. 

“When we learn how to make 
SuperSteel,” Cochran said with 
finality. Then he pointed down to 
the crane, moving slowly beyond 
them. “We’ve got a new man there. 
I hadn’t noticed the change before. 
I wonder when he came on. 

“Seems to be a good operator,” 
Willard mumbled. “Let’s go down 
and have a look at the charge logs,” 
he added quickly, drawing at 
Cochran’s arm. 

“It’s that kid that was here once 
before,” Roberts said. “Thought he 
left to go to school or something. 
Must not have panned out. These 
guys care more for money than 
education these days. He’s likely 
to regret it ten years from now. 
What’s running a crane compared 
with a good education?” 

While Evans studied Ward 
physically and psychologically like 
a white rat running a maze, Wil- 
lard set up an observation crew 
that watched every move he made, 
by telescope and by hidden instru- 
ments in the crane cab. Ward had 
agreed to the physical tests as a 
condition of employment. He made 
no protest when these sometimes 
included an electroencephalograph 
reading, though he looked inquir- 
ingly at the nurses and doctors 
who examined him. 

As far as Willard knew, how- 
ever, the craneman didn’t know 
about the observation of his work- 
ing habits and techniques. At the 



74 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



end o£ two months the test engi- 
neer believed he knew everything 
that Ward did in producing Super- 
Steel. 

One night, on a graveyard shift 
when Ward was home asleep, Wil- 
lard took the crane controls him- 
self. Carefully, and with meticulous 
attention to the fantastic detail 
Ward had accumulated, he poured 
a batch. 

There wasn’t a molecule of 
SuperSteel in the lot. 

Willard began to wonder if, 
somehow, they were all being taken 
for one big ride. SuperSteel— its ap- 
pearance only when Ward was 
around — the apparently psychic re- 
lationship between the craneman 
and the new metal— the impossi- 
bility of duplicating it when Ward 
was absent— 

On the face of it, the whole thing 
looked as if some fantastic hoax 
were being perpetrated. Only the 
tension gauges in his own labora- 
tory kept Willard from this con- 
clusion. 

The day after Willard’s failure 
to duplicate the young craneman’s 
effort he decided to quit beating 
around the bush, Evans or no 
Evans. He called Ward to his 
office before the shift began. 

Ward acted as if he had been 
expecting something. He twisted 
his workman’s gloves uneasily. 
Willard came to the point. 

“You know about SuperSteel,” 
he said. 

Ward nodded; his nervous fid- 



dling with the gloves increased. 

“We think you have something 
to do with it.” 

Ward nodded again. “I know,” 
he said. 

“What do you know?” Willard 
demanded. “You know we suspect 
this? Or you know how SuperSteel 
is made?” 

“Both,” said Ward. 

“I’ll skip asking why you haven’t 
said anything about it before now. 
But you did agree to sign a con- 
tract, and you signed a patent 
agreement also. You do have a 
certain obligation to disclose any 
such information to the company.” 

“I’m more than willing,” Ward 
said. “I’ve been trying for weeks 
to figure out how to do it. There’s 
no one here to whom I could teach 
it.” 

“Tell me. No— wait. I %vant 
Evans and Cochran to hear this.” 

The test engineer disappeared, re- 
turning in fifteen minutes with the 
psychologist and Intermountain’s 
president. They sat at the small 
conference table in Willard’s office 
as Ward looked uncomfortably 
from one to the other. 

“Now,” said Willard. 

“I don’t know how to say it,” 
Ward said in obvious misery. 
“When you made your offer I told 
myself I was going to let you have 
the secret as soon as possible— but 
I don’t know how to do it.” 

“Just describe what you know of 
making SuperSteel,” said Cochran. 
“Let us judge whether we can 



THE STRAD EFFECT 



75 



learn it or not.” His voice sounded 
as if the long tension within him- 
self could not be held much longer. 

“There are so many things that 
count,” said Ward, musingly. 
“Masovitch thought I was crazy 
because I was concerned with tem- 
perature out-doors, and with baro- 
metric pressure, and humidity. All 
those things count. But there’s 
more, too. The feel of the lessen- 
ing weight in the ladle as you pour. 
The thickness of the falling col- 
umn. The height from which it’s 
dropped. And these things aren’t 
the same all the time. They vary 
with the constituency of the batch. 
You have to know how to feel 
just what’s inside the ladle in order 
to know how to get the best steel 
out of it. Do you see what I mean?” 

The others stared at him. Finally, 
Evans broke the silence. “The 
Strad Effect,” he said slowly. 

“What are you talking about?” 
Cochran demanded angrily. 

Evans told him what he’d said 
previously to Willard about the 
violin-maker. “You can say that 
any man whose skill goes beyond 
the normal through an almost psy- 
chic understanding of his materials 
is operating under the Stradivarius 
Effect. You physicists like names 
like that.” He smiled in Willard’s 
direction. “I should think you’d 
find it appropriate.” 

“Quite appropriate,” said Wil- 
lard. “But whatever you call it, 
we’ve got to find a way to dupli- 
cate it.” 



“There’s more to it than you’ve 
understood,” said Ward. “When 
a man loves a thing he develops 
that understanding of materials. 
The love for the skill comes first.” 

Evans nodded. “That’s under- 
standable.” 

“That’s why I can’t teach it!” 
said Ward. 

The others looked at one another 
in silence again. “You mean to say 
I don’t love this business enough to 
be able to make the best steel?” 
Cochran said. 

“No,” said Ward. 

“You’re crazy I There’s nothing 
I wouldn’t do to put this little out- 
fit on top of the heap! I’d get down 
there on the pouring floor in over- 
alls two shifts a day, myself, if I 
thought it would yield Super- 
Steel!” 

“That’s just it,” said Ward. “You 
love the company, the business end 
of steel-making. You want Inter- 
mountain to be the biggest of its 
kind, and give your own personal 
pride in the management of it. 

“But you don’t love steel.” 

Cochran’s face darkened. “Why, 
you—” 

“Take it easy,” Evans said. “The 
man’s telling the truth, and you 
know it. I’m just beginning to sec 
what this is all about. How many 
steelmen in the whole country care 
for steel the way Stradivarius cared 
for violin making?” 

He smiled as the others failed to 
answer. “Take Masovitch,” he con- 
tinued. “What does he care for? 



76 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



He’s the foreman, but any other 
job would be just as good as long 
as it gave him three squares and 
let him feed his kids right. You, 
Willard— how much are you in love 
with steel?” 

“I don’t see what that’s got to do 
with anything!” the test engineer 
snapped, almost irritably. “I’m not 
a steel fanatic, certainly, but I’d 
like to see the job done right. I’d 
like to see SuperSteel put on a pro- 
duction basis for the sheer satisfac- 
tion of doing it. I don’t see why I 
can’t learn the technique as well 
as anybody else.” 

“You’re closer than any, maybe,” 
said Ward. “But there are so many 
variables in every batch. You have 
to know what to do about each 
one. The rules are no good. You 
have to feel how to do the right 
thing at the right time to make the 
steel good. You can’t feel it unless 
you care enough. Stradivarius cared 
enough about violins so that he 
could make them all nearly per- 
fect, even though no two pieces of 
wood were ever alike. That’s the 
way it has to be with steel.” 

A wall had risen between them. 
On one side, Evans and the steel- 
makers seemed to watch Ward 
through a thickening barrier they 
could not penetrate. Ward, doubt- 
less, felt the same on his side of 
the table. 

“I guess you won’t need me 
around here any more,” he said. “I 



know you hired me and offered me 
all that money so you could learn 
how to make SuperSteel. I can’t 
teach you. I’m sorry.” 

“Wbat do you mean, we won’t 
need you?” Cochran demanded. 
“You don’t need to go back to 
school to learn about metals! You 
know more than all the metal- 
lurgists in the world, put together. 
I’ll double your salary if you’ll keep 
on producing SuperSteel for us.” 

“You can hardly expect a man 
of his intellect to continue as a 
craneman,” said Evans. “He be- 
longs in a university laboratory.” 

Ward smiled. 

“I won’t be a craneman,” he said, 
“any more than Stradivarius was a 
wood carver. If you really want 
me, nothing in the world could 
tear me away from steelmaking. 
And I’ll make it better and better 
—every batch I pour!” 

From the gallery they watched 
him go back to the cab of the 
crane. Cochran shook his head dis- 
bclievingly. “Stradivarius! Who’d 
ever expect to find him in a steel 
mill!” 

Then he turned suddenly and 
strode off. 

“Where are you going in such a 
hurry?” Evans called. 

“To get my overalls,” Cochran 
called back. “I’m going to make a 
liar out of Stradivarius!” 



WONDERS 

ARE 

MANY 



by 

L. Sprague de Camp 



T his section will, deo volente, 
be a regular feature of this mag- 
azine. It will consist of articles and 
fillers on factual matters of inter- 
est to readers of imaginative fiction. 
It will deal with curious, contro- 
versial, and speculative aspects of 
science, invention, history, myth- 
ology, pseudo-science, supernatural- 
ism, and imaginative fiction. 

If anybody has a subject he would 
like discussed, let him write me 
care of the magazine. I will not 
promise to comply with all requests, 
as some topics would be less fascin- 



ating to most readers than to the 
persons proposing them, and there 
are some about which nobody 
knows enough to say aught. But 
I shall be glad of suggestions. 

The title of this feature-column 
is from Sophokles’ Antigone. The 
passage continues: 

Wonders are there many — none 
more wonderful than man./His 
the might that crosses seas swept 
white by storm winds . . . 

— (Hamilton translation.) 
So, let us begin with a discussion 
of our future. 



77 



78 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



OUR BIOLOGICAL FUTURE -I 



In a well-known science-fiction 
story,* the hero goes three million 
years into the future. At that point 
on the time-track, he finds that man 
has dwindled to thirty-five super- 
geniuses whose skinny little bodies 
cannot hold up their enormous 
heads without props. All they do 
is sit and think. Horrified, the hero 
massacres the lot and returns to his 
own time, excitedly boasting of 
killing off this race of “monsters.” 

Other writers have caused man 
to mutate into a superman, a tele- 
path, or (after an atomic war) a 
freak with three eyes or two heads. 
Every time one of my colleagues 
broods on the hydrogen-bomb men- 
ace, he writes a story wherein man 
has been changed by hard radia- 
tions into something halfway be- 
tween a human being and an emu, 
an aard-vark, or an octopus. 

What is really likely to happen? 
In recent years, the sciences of gen- 
etics and evolution-theory have 
made such giant strides that we can 
now form quite a clear idea of how 
we got this way and what is now 
befalling us. 



In the last two million years, we 
evolved from small, erect, ground- 
living man-apes like those found 
fossil in Africa. Contrary to what 
was once thought, the bodies of 
these Australopithecines had be- 
come quite human-looking at a 
time when their heads were still 
for practical purposes those of an- 
thropoid apes. 

During most of this time, our 
forebears were tiny isolated bands 
of hunters. Three forces caused 
them to evolve. These were muta- 
tion, selection, and genetic drift. 

Mutation is a sudden change in 
the mechanism of heredity. As you 
may know, nearly all the machin- 
ery of heredity dwells in the chro- 
mosomes. These are thread-like par- 
ticles in the cells of living things. 
Different species have different pat- 
terns of chromosomes. The chromo- 
somes are made of hundreds of 
particles, called genes, strung to- 
gether. Each gene is thought to 
be a giant molecule of protein, like 
a tame plant virus. 

A human sperm or ovum has 
twenty-four chromosomes. The 



•Harry Bates: “Alas, All Thinking 1“ ( Astounding Science -Fiction, June , 1935; reprinted 
in The Other Worlds and Imagination Unlimited). 



L. SPRAGUE DE CAMP, one of the most prolific writers in 
science fiction, is also one of the most scholarly. Here he explores 
odd by-paths in the history of knowledge, and occasionally will 
review non-fiction bookjs of interest to s-f readers — both exclusively 
for Vanguard. He is the author of a historical novel, “An Elephant 
for Aristotle”, just published by Doubleday. 



WONDERS ARE MANY 



79 



number of genes in a complete set 
of these chromosomes is estimated 
at ten-to-twenty thousand. At con- 
ception, a sperm joins an ovum, 
adding its twenty-four chromo- 
somes to those of the ovum. This 
makes forty-eight chromosomes in 
the embryonic cell, with tvventy-to- 
forty thousand genes. Then, when 
the cell starts to grow, it divides 
into two. At this time the chromo- 
somes go through a kind of ritual- 
dance, which ends with each 
chromosome splitting lengthwise 
into two. They have been making 
duplicates of themselves out of the 
chemicals in the cell. One set of 
forty-eight chromosomes goes into 
one of the new cells and the rest 
into the other. 

Every time a cell divides, this 
division happens again, until the 
grown organism comes to create 
sex-cells for reproductive purposes. 
Then the chromosomes separate 
once without splitting, so that each 
sex-cell gets only twenty-four. The 
24-chromosome sex-cell is called a 
gamete and the 48-chromosome 
body-cell a zygote. 

As you see, every zygote has a 
duplicate set of chromosomes. If 
we give them Roman numbers, 
there are two I’s, two II’s, and so on 
up to the two XXI V’s. If we num- 
ber the genes on each chromosome, 
each No. I will begin with numbers 
1, 2, and so on. 

The two I-r genes of a given zy- 
gote are much alike; so are the two 
I-2*s, the two VI-437’s, and the two 



XX-986’s. Often they are identical, 
in which case the organism is called 
a homozygote with regard to that 
gene, whichever it be. 

However, the two genes of a 
gene-pair may differ. In fact, there 
may be a number of alternative 
patterns of gene that can equally 
well occupy a given gene-site, say 
the I-i spot on either No. 1 chromo- 
some, just as you might have any 
of several different makes of tire 
on the left front wheel of your car. 
These different gene-types that oc- 
cupy a given site in the chromo- 
somes are called the alleles of the 
gene. When different alleles of a 
gene occupy the two I-i places, the 
organism is call a heterozygote as 
regards that gene. 

Of each such pair of genes, you 
get one from each parent. Each 
of your children will get one gene 
like one member of each pair you 
have, but it is a matter of luck 
which one he will get. 

Genes carry particular traits. 
That is, each gene affects the 
growth of at least one part of your 
body and decides its size, shape, 
color, or other quality. Many genes 
affect several parts each, while 
many characters like the color of 
your skin are the result of many 
genes, scattered among the chromo- 
somes, acting together. Such a 
group of genes that work ill con- 
cert is called a polygene. An organ 
controlled by a polygene is not in- 
herited according to Mendel’s sim- 
ple ratios but follows more complex 



80 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



formulas. The growth of the hu- 
man brain is governed by a large 
polygene, so that genius in men 
does not follow any simple one- 
two-one ratio, like that which ob- 
tains with eye-color in men or 
height in sweet peas. 

Thus you are a mosaic of charac- 
ters that have come down from 
thousands of ancestors. And now 
for mutations. 

Mutations were called “sports” 
by animal-breeders long before 
scientists studied them. The first 
mutation definitely recorded was a 
short-legged lamb, born in 1791 
into a nock owned by Seth Wright 
of Massachusetts. 

In the 1890’s, the Dutch botanist 
Hugo de Vries recognized muta- 
tions as part of the mechanism of 
evolution. De Vries supposed that 
all mutations were big sudden 
changes that made a new species 
all at once. He thought this because 
he actually found such a drastic 
change in the evening primrose, 
Oenothera. In fact, however, this 
was a special kind of mutation 
called polyploidy, doubling the 
number of chromosomes. It is fairly 
common in plants but extremely 
rare in animals. When animal poly- 
ploids occur, they usually leave no 
descendants because their offspring 
are sexually abnormal. 

The kind of mutation that often 
occurs in animals is the gene-muta- 
tion or point-mutation. Although 
genes can be passed on down for 



thousands of generations un- 
changed, once in a while an acci- 
dent betides one. Some atoms are 
knocked off or twisted askew, or an 
extra atom is added, or the gene’s 
position in the chromosome is 
changed, or the gene is duplicated 
or lost. If such a change occurs in 
a gamete, and the new gene-pattern 
is passed on to an offspring, the off- 
spring will have some new charac- 
ter that none of its ancestors had. 
The same gene can change in 
many different ways. 

One gene in a gamete does not 
have much chance of mutating. 
However, with ten to twenty thou- 
sand genes in a sex-cell, mutation 
is not rare. Some geneticists think 
the human gamete has about one 
chance in four of mutating during 
its short life. Since you get one 
gamete from each parent, you have 
twice the chance of getting a muta- 
tion from two parents as from one. 
In other words, you have an almost 
even chance of being a mutant — 
that is, of differing from your par- 
ents by a mutation. As each of 
them had the same chance of be- 
ing a mutant in their turn, your 
chance of differing from your 
grandparents by one or more mu- 
tations is higher yet — between four- 
fifths and seven-eighths — and so on 
back. For practical purposes, we 
are all mutants. 

Then why don’t we all have two 
heads? Because most mutations are 
small — so small we can hardly de- 
tect them. In fact, many mutations 






WONDERS ARE MANY 

may go on all the time with such 
small effects that we don’t even 
know about them. They may make 
your digestion work a little better 
or worse, or your eyesight a little 
keener or dimmer, or your arteries 
harden a little sooner or later. 

In point of fact, most mutations 
we know about are harmful or 
destructive. They make your eyes 
and digestion and arteries worse, 
not better. Constructive mutations 
cannot be more than a fraction of 
i% of the total. The bigger the 
mutation, the smaller its chance 
of being good. Most drastic muta- 
tions are lethal. They kill off the 
organism in embryo or in infancy. 

The reason for this is simple. A 
gene is an enormously complex 
little bit of biochemical machinery, 
exquisitely adapted to its task of 
controlling the growth of some part 
or parts of the body, either by itself 
or in cooperation with other genes. 
To expect a big random mutation 
to better it is like trying to improve 
a watch by hitting it with a ham- 
mer. 

Even if the lethal mutations be 
barred from consideration, never- 
theless, if all non-lethal mutants are 
given an equal chance of survival 
and reproduction, the overall effect 
of mutation is overwhelmingly 
harmful to the species, because the 
great majority of mutations are 
destructive. 

While the number of possible 
mutations is enormous, and any 

i genc may mutate in many ways, 



81 

some genes mutate more than 
others, and many undergo certain 
mutations over and over. Geneti- 
cists estimate that the mutation 
causing chondrodystrophic dwarf- 
ism (fetal rickets) occurs about 
once in every 10,000 human births, 
and that one responsible for hemo- 
philia about once in 50,000. The 
hemophilia that Queen Victoria 
passed on to her descendants in the 
Russian and Spanish royal families 
was probably such a mutation. 

Although rare, constructive or 
beneficial mutations happen, too. 
That is how evolution takes place. 
In a wild state, living things with 
destructive mutations tend to die 
young, while those with construct- 
ives have more than their share of 
offspring and take the place of 
those without them. Thus, in 
Europe, the black mutation of sev- 
eral moths has become beneficial 
around sooty cities because moths 
that have it are harder for hungry 
birds to see. Therefore these black 
moths have taken the place of the 
normal speckled races. Since men 
have been using antibiotic drugs on 
bacteria . and new insecticides on 
insects, many species of bacteria and 
insects have developed strains im- 
mune to these poisons. 

We know some but not all of 
the causes of mutations. Hard ra- 
diations bring on some; not only 
those from man-made things like 
X-ray machines and atomic bombs, 
but also from the slight but ever- 
present radioactivity of the air, 



82 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



from cosmic rays, and the earth, 
from radioactive minerals. Dosing 
animals like vinegar-flies with X- 
rays greatly speeds up their rate 
of mutation. 

As far as evolution is concerned, 
though, the slow action of the weak 
natural radioactivity, acting over 
the centuries, causes far more mu- 
tations than the violent radiations 
from atomic explosions acting over 
a short time only. It has been estim- 
ated that if atomic tests keep on at 
their present rate for a century, the 
mutation-rate of men might be 
raised by one and a half to three 
percent. Most of the monsters 
would die young as they do now, 
while no one mutation will make 
a superman. It will not even make 
a genius, because the growth of the 
brain is governed by a large poly- 
gene, and it takes the right alleles 
of all the genes of the polygene act- 
ing at once to make a genius. 
Genius is therefore a highly unpre- 
dictable event. 

An atomic war would of course 
dose many more people at one time 
with radiations. But such a war 
would not likely last long. There- 
fore its long-term genetic effect 
would be much less than some have 
feared. Civilization stands to suffer 
far more in such a war from the an- 
nihilation of cities and the result- 
ing breakdown of systems and 
institutions than from the rise in 
the mutation-rate of the survivors. 
Careless use of X-rays by people 
like shoe-salesmen may present as 



big a hazard to our heredity as 
bombs. 

Besides radiations, some chem- 
icals affect the mutation-rate in 
some organisms. Mustard gas, some 
peroxides, and ethyl sulfate raise 
it, at least in experimental animals. 
So does formaldehyde, which auto- 
mobile-exhausts spew forth. So do 
the purine bases, a group of chem- 
icals, including caffein, related to 
uric acid. Therefore it is not im- 
possible that drinking tea and cof- 
fee increases mutations in men. 
Sudden changes in temperature 
speed mutations in insects but are 
less likely to affect large animals 
like us because our gametes are 
better protected. 

An agency that promotes muta- 
tions is called a mutagen. Recently 
it has been found that there are 
antimutagens as well, which lower 
the rate of mutation. A small class 
of chemicals called ribosides have 
this effect on bacteria. Whether 
there are antimutagens for higher 
forms of life is not yet known. 

How bad is it to raise the muta- 
tion-rate? Without some mutations 
we could never have evolved from 
lizards, and without them the breed 
of men could not be much im- 
proved in the future. 

The extra mutations caused by 
the mutagens of civilization are of 
exactly the same kind as those that 
have been happening for billions 
of years. The effect of these muta- 
gens is to cause more mutations, 



WONDERS ARE MANY 



83 



but not mutations of a different 
kind. So we shall not get a race of 
two-headed men, bombs or no 
bombs. 

However, some geneticists think 
that all mutations caused by hard 
radiations are destructives. They 
think the impact of such rays on 
the genes is too violent, too much 
like hitting a watch with a ham- 
mer, to improve them. 

Moreover, many serious defects, 
like mongolian idiocy and cleft pa- 
late, may not be due to mutations. 
They may be caused, instead, by 
accidental damage to the growing 
embryo. 

Nonetheless, there is still a sin- 
ister side to mutations. Among wild 
animals and primitive men, de- 
structives are always arising and 
then being destroyed by the sec- 
ondary great evolutionary force: 
selection. 

This is the “survival of the fit- 
test” of which Darwin’s follower 
Spencer wrote. The expression does 
not mean that the fittest necessarily 
had to prove his fitness by wallop- 
ing his fellow-caveman over the 
head. It merely means that he had 
to be enough stronger, healthier, 
smarter, brisker, and more fertile 
so that on the average he would 
leave more descendants. 

Some common human traits that 
do not fit very well into civilized 
life can be explained on the ground 
that they helped those who had 
them to survive as hunters. For 
instance, reading that daily chron- 



icle of the crimes and follies of 
mankind known as a newspaper, 
you may wonder at the bent of men 
to divide into factions along any 
convenient line of demarcation — 
racial, religious, linguistic, cultural, 
political, or merely sentimental — 
and fight it out with implacable 
hatred and bloodthirsty ferocity. 

But, in a hunting-band, this fac- 
tiousness has its use. Such a band 
has its optimum size. Under typical 
hunting-culture conditions, this size 
is about forty to eighty people, of 
whom ten to twenty are adult 
males. 

At any one time, the area that 
the hunters can cover is limited 
by the distance they can hike away 
from their camp, kill their game, 
and drag it back to camp in a 
couple of days. If the size of the 
band much exceeds the optimum, 
there are more mouths to feed, but 
the hunters cannot hunt a larger 
area. They can only hunt the same 
area more intensely, whereupon the 
game is killed off or flees the neigh- 
borhood, and the band starves. 
Therefore it is to the hunters’ ad- 
vantage that, when the band ex- 
ceeds a certain size, factions shall 
arise, and the quarrels among them 
shall force the band to split up. 
This is a speculation, but a reason- 
able one from what we know. 

Again, people of the intellectual 
type have, from time immemorial, 
bemoaned the fact that they were 
such a small minority, lost in a sea 
of brainless buffoons and ignorant 



84 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



ruffians. But, while a few intel- 
lectuals are useful to the hunting- 
band for shamans and bards, a 
band made up entirely of intellectu- 
als would probably perish, because 
these deep thinkers would be spec- 
ulating on the origin of the cosmos 
or inventing the bicycle when they 
should be keeping their minds on 
spearing that salmon. 

In a wild state, then, the species 
is kept hale and whole and betimes 
even bettered by the interaction of 
mutation and selection. Destructive 
mutations are always arising but 
are likewise being destroyed by se- 
lection. Often, however, they are 
not gotten rid of right away, be- 
cause most mutations are recessives. 
This means that both genes of a 
gene-pair must belong to the mu- 
tated allele of the gene before the 
effects of the mutation become ap- 
parent. 

Therefore, living things that 
carry the mutation as a recessive 
trait suffer from it little or not at 
all but can still pass it on. If the 
mutation is one that happens again 
and again, the number of heterozy- 
gotes rises until there are so many 
that they sometimes mate with one 
another instead of with the unmu- 
tated majority. When this happens, 
a fraction of their offspring are 
homozygotes displaying the muta- 
tion. If it be a destructive, they 
tend to die sooner than others of 
their species. Thus the species 
reaches a balance between the rate 



of mutation and the rate of elim- 
ination. 

Sometimes a state of things called 
balanced polymorphism comes to 
pass. This is when a heterozygote is 
more viable than either, of the two 
kinds of homozygote: the one with 
the mutation and the one without. 
For instance, in some malarial parts 
of Africa, people have a high pro- 
portion of the recessive gene-allele 
causing sickle-cell anemia in homo- 
zygotes. The heterozygotes (with 
one anemia-making gene) resist 
falciparum malaria better than 
those without this allele at all. So, 
while selection weeds out the ho- 
mozygotes of this mutation, it tends 
to preserve the heterozygotes. And 
these bring forth more anemic ho- 
mozygotes. 

Thus mutations put constant 
pressure on a species, blurring its 
genetic design. A common type of 
mutation deprives the creature of an 
organ or a function. The loss of a 
gene is likely to have this effect. If 
the organ is not needed, the muta- 
tion happens again and again until 
the type without the organ becomes 
the normal one. 

This is the process of rudimenta- 
tion, which results in eyeless cave- 
creatures and those hairless pri- 
mates called men. At some stage 
in their evolution, our ancestors 
dwelt in tropical forests where hair 
was not needed for warmth, so the 
hairless mutation got rid of it 
everywhere, save in a few spots 



WONDERS ARE MANY 



85 



where it protected tender tissues 
against sunburn or insect-bites. 

Thus any organ or function not 
protected by selection is apt to be 
lost. Moreover, if the genes that 
built the organ disappear complete- 
ly, the organ probably cannot be re- 
gained. Mutations do sometimes oc- 
cur in reverse — that is, canceling a 
previous mutation — but this is rare. 
Our forebears failed to re-grow 
their pelts on moving to colder 
climes and had to invent clothes 
instead. 

Contrariwise, if an animal has a 
prominent organ, the organ is prob- 
ably useful even if we do not know 
just how it is used. It once was 
thought, for example, that the 
woolly mammoth’s tusks were use- 
less, since they were so long and 
curly that they crossed at the tips 
and so were no good for fighting or 
digging. Now it has been guessed 
that they were used as snow-shovels 
to get at food in winter. 

When the pressure of selection 
relaxes, as it has with mankind, 
many destructive mutations spread 
through the species because those 
who get them are not eliminated. 
Every advance in medicine enables 
more people with defects to live and 
breed like everyone else. 

In other words, every species is 
subject to constant degenerative 
mutation-pressure. In the wild state, 
this is counterbalanced by selection; 
but civilization, by mitigating the 
rigor of selection, allows mutation- 
pressure to work its effects almost 



unchecked. It might mean some- 
thing that color-blindness is only 
about one percent in Eskimos, New 
Guineans, and Navahos, but 
around seven or eight percent 
among the long-civilized Chinese, 
Europeans, and white Americans. 

The remaining evolutionary force 
is genetic drift. This is the random 
variation of small inbreeding 
groups away from the original 
type. It comes about partly through 
mutations and partly as a result of 
the chance loss of types without re- 
gard to their adaptive value. In a 
large interbreeding population, dif- 
ferent alleles of the various genes 
occur in various proportions. These 
ratios will stay about the same in- 
definitely unless changed by selec- 
tion. 

Suppose, however, that neither 
brown eyes nor blue eyes have any 
advantage over the other, which is 
probably true. Then a large popula- 
tion in which, say, one-tenth of the 
people have the gene that makes 
blue eyes, will keep this proportion 
for ages. But, if the group is only 
twenty human beings, two with 
blue-eye genes, an accident can 
easily rid the group of the blue-eye 
gene for good. Some odd and ap- 
parently useless racial traits of 
small, long-isolated populations, 
like the high percentage of Rh- 
negative blood in the Basques, may 
be the result of genetic drift. 

[This is the first in a series of ar- 
ticles on our biological future .] 




“To produce a mighty boo\, you must choose a mighty theme. 
No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, 
though many there be that have tried it." — Herman Melville. 



THE TALES THEY TELL 

by 

Lester del Rey 



TVTo BOOK WAS EVER SO BAD THAT 
■** ^ someone didn’t like it, if only 
the author; and probably no book 
ever escaped someone’s intense dis- 
like. Subjective reactions cannot be 
fully removed from judging a 
book, and inevitably my own per- 
sonal reactions are going to color 
my evaluations. 

Yet there are certain fixed values 
in writing of any kind; a novel is 
a matter of craft as well as art, 
and every craft has objective rules 
we can use to judge it. Otherwise 
there would be no need for editors, 
nor any way for them to separate 
good from bad. Even art in the 
final analysis must meet these tests 
of craftsmanship. And since my re- 



views will be based on such rules, 
let’s look at the major ones I’ll use 
as my guides. 

First, as the quotation from Mel- 
ville indicates, a novel must have 
something to say about a subject of 
enough importance to the reader 
to be of interest. This theme should 
operate through a plot, which is 
simply a meaningful pattern of 
action and reaction. Naturally, the 
plot must revolve around characters 
who are credible and sufficiently 
vital for the reader to care what 
happens to them, and their actions 
should seem to belong to them, not 
to be caused by the author’s need to 
keep the plot going somehow. 
There must be some emotional in- 



86 



THE TALES THEY TELL 



87 



tensity and enough inventiveness to 
avoid trite situations tritely strung 
together. There should be enough 
honesty to avoid phoney problems 
that could be solved if the charac- 
ters stopped acting like idiots, or 
solutions that involve last-minute 
miracles or cavalry charges over 
the hill. We’d like a little color and 
background to keep the action from 
seeming to occur on a bare stage. 
Stylistically, the writing should be 
skillful enough to avoid annoying 
us, at a minimum. 

These are all elementary rules, 
but they become doubly important 
in any field of fantasy, because 
we're dealing with something basic- 
ally incredible; we need every trick 
in the book to make things believ- 
able. And for our own specialized 
form of the novel, we have other 
peculiar rules of our own. 

One of the strongest is that sci- 
ence fiction must involve science! 
I have no absolute rule about how 
much science is wise; I think the 
balance between science and fiction 
must be determined by the novel 
itself, and the only safe rule is that 
the story should be one that 
couldn’t happen without the science 
and extrapolation from science in 
it. Once the science is there, how- 
ever, it must be honest science or 
honest extrapolation from real sci- 
ence, and the story must stick to the 
basic postulates it sets up. The same 
rules apply to fantasy or science- 
fantasy, except that any postulates 
can be used, provided they are used 



ingeniously and consistently. Fi- 
nally, the most should be made of 
any postulate used; if we are deal- 
ing with a world having immortal- 
ity, I’d like to see how that affects 
the economy, religion, construction 
of cars, marriage relationships, etc.; 
a good novel must make the most 
of what it uses. 

Having stated what I consider 
the duties of a writer, maybe I’d 
better outline what I think my own 
duties here are. I’m not interested 
in summarizing novels so that lazy 
people can discuss them without 
reading. I’d like to be able to “im- 
prove the breed” by critical evalua- 
tion, but I’m extremely doubtful 
of my own talents along this line; 
I feei that many critics are called 
but few arc proven. So all I can do 
is to review what the publishers 
bring out in the hope that I’ll make 
it easier for other readers to spend 
their money wisely for books they’ll 
enjoy. That is optimistic enough a 
goal, without going further. 

I also want to keep diis column 
as close to book publication dates as 
possible, hereafter. This time, how- 
ever, there was too little time to 
alert publishers and get advance 
copies; I hope that the books under 
discussion will still be on sale when 
you read this. And now, to turn to 
them . . . 

NO BLADE OF GRASS, by John 
Christopher. Simon & Schuster, 
New York. 218pp. $2.95. 

Probably more people will read 



88 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



or see this story than any other by 
a science fiction writer, which may 
or may not help the field, but which 
makes this an important novel. 
Movie rights have already been sold 
for a very handsome figure, and it 
was originally serialized in The 
Saturday Evening Post, where it 
received an unprecedented full-page 
build-up as the story that shocked 
the editors. It was not labelled as 
science fiction, however. 

Actually, this is what I’d call 
marginal science fiction. It uses one 
of the best basic postulates I’ve seen, 
and I’m kicking myself for not hav- 
ing thought of it; while not 100% 
new, no real use was made of this 
idea before. It begins with a virus 
that suddenly appears and runs 
wild, destroying all members of the 
grass family — grass, rice, wheat, etc. 
At one blow, the cereals and fodder 
for meat animals are wiped out, 
making starvation inevitable for 
most of humanity within a brief 
time. We then follow a small group 
of people — from London dirough a 
world of desperate brutality toward 
an isolated valley where they be- 
lieve life can be maintained — and 



from civilization to the mores of the 
primitive tribe. 

On the science level, the develop- 
ment of the virus and the futile 
fight against it are well thought 
out; but once the world doom is 
established, no more is done with 
the idea. It is only a device to make 
the story possible, and it’s dismissed 
when its work is done. We see little 
of what happens to animals and 
pets. We rarely get even adequate 
detail on the changing landscape. 
And apparently weeds and clover — 
as examples not belonging to the 
grass family — are quietly dismissed 
from existence as minor nuisances 
to the idea. Probably it was this 
use of science, to set the scene and 
then leave, that won the novel 
much of its success outside our field. 

As fiction, it’s an excellent ad- 
venture story, in spite of numerous 
faults. It begins quietly — a virtue 
that permits the development of 
tension to be paced properly — and 
moves forward with power and in- 
evitability. It balances melodrama 
with underwriting to the advantage 
of each. It pits man against hostile 
nature and makes its point (that 



LESTER DEL REY, who reviews new science-fiction novels for 
Vanguard (and only for VSF) each issue, exploded into the field 
in 1938; his second story, published the same year, was the classic 
“Helen O’Loy.” He is also the author of one of the finest of all 
s-f novels, “Nerves” (Ballantine Books), and a number of teen-age 
novels for Winston. The latest of the Winston books is the hand- 
some “ Across the Space Frontier’,’ a factual survey of the coming 
age of space flight. 



THE TALES THEY TELL 



89 



the primary function of life is sur- 
vival) with a sustained emotional 
drive on the reader that is all too 
rare in fiction. While I find none of 
it very shocking, I have to agree 
with the Post that it’s hard to put 
down and rewarding reading. 

Strangely, for a story on this level, 
its major weakness comes in the 
handling of character. The women 
throughout never seem to breathe. 
Ann, the wife of the leader, has 
one brief moment of superb realism 
after a time of horror, but is mostly 
so flatly insipid that she’s incred- 
ible; in the end, she is nothing 
but a vehicle for platitudes that 
have no place in their world. John, 
who leads the march, seems more 
driven than driving; never quite 
sure of himself, he does the right 
things without establishing inner 
conviction. His friend Roger, who 
could have been a real person, fades 
quietly into the background until 
he is only a name. 

Yet Christopher does give the 
story one vital character — and that 
one is enough. This is Pirrie, the 
gunsmith, the realist — a man who 
fits himself to the times and knows 
what must be done. It is Pirrie who 
realizes that the mores of the tribe 
must henceforth apply, and who 
sees that a tribe must have a leader. 
It is Pirrie who chooses the leader, 
and who knows he cannot be the 
man. Without ever giving us more 
than the actions of Pirrie, Christo- 
pher has produced a marvelously 
three-dimensional and complex 



character with the basic simplicity 
of greatness to make it more com- 
plex. This is Pirrie’s story, and 
without him the novel collapses 
back into platitudinous emotional- 
ism. 

In the end, perhaps the weakness 
of John is best shown by the fact 
that he can bother thinking about his 
brother with regret, instead of his 
thoughts being solely on Pirrie and 
the destiny Pirrie has carved out for 
him and his. This end strikes me 
as a weak sop tossed in to placate 
the maudlin morality of slick 
readers. It leaves much to be de- 
sired — and without Pirrie, I sup- 
pose that is inevitable. 

All the faults are fairly obvious — 
and the virtues of the story are sub- 
tle ones of emotional power. But 
my final verdict is that it’s a novel 
that is head and shoulders above 
its own weaknesses. If you can af- 
ford the hard-cover book, get it; 
if you can’t, don’t miss the paper- 
back edition whenever that comes 
out. Buy! 

HIGH VACUUM, by Charles Eric 
Maine. Ballantine Books, New 
York. 185pp. 35^ 

This paperback original is at the 
opposite end of the spectrum from 
Christopher’s novel. This is mar- 
ginal science fiction. Science and 
what passes for extropolation fur- 
nish about the only excuse for the 
novel. 

The basic theme here is again 
that the primary drive in life is for 



90 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



survival, apparently. The first 
manned moon ship crashes into a 
crater where life is nearly impos- 
sible. One girl and three men try 
to live in their space suits under 
lunar conditions, since lethal radi- 
ation makes it impossible to stay 
in the ship. All but one must die 
before rescue can be accomplished. 
While not a fresh idea, this is a 
particularly valid frame for a novel 
today, when all basic plots dealing 
with the conquest of space merit 
careful reexamination. Unfortun- 
ately, this is not a good example of 
such reexamination. 

The science element dominates 
the fiction, but only by default. 
Facts are manhandled, probabilities 
are ignored, and details are poorly 
or falsely supplied. It takes the pro- 
tagonist half the book to discover 
that sound will travel in a solid as 
well as in air, though he is a trained 
engineer and the knowledge is im- 
portant. (Earlier, Maine writes a 
scene where sound does not appar- 
ently travel through a solid.) For 
some strange reason, the ship takes 
off from Earth to refuel in an orbit; 
the wastefulness of this in added 
structural strength and streamlin- 
ing hardly needs pointing out to 
anyone who cares to read anything 
of the works by Wernher von 
Braun and Willy Ley. The ship 
lands on a field of uranium so rich 
that its gamma radiation exceeds 
permissable dosage within a few 
hours through the walls of the ship; 
this is ridiculous — such an incred- 



ibly, fantastically rich deposit at 
the surface of so light a world as 
Luna is totally unacceptable — and 
unnecessary, since more ingenious 
means for making the ship unin- 
habitable could have been found. 
Earth sends out supply rockets 
set to home on the metal of the 
ship — and never even thinks of 
having them home on the current- 
ly-working radio or radar signals 
of the ship, which would have 
made their close arrival a certainty; 
and, of course, would have ruined 
the plot “complications”! The men 
trudge back and forth through the 
uranium field to the ship for phys- 
ical needs, but apparently never 
think of using their metal plate and 
sealing compounds to line a dug- 
out, tiny comfort station below the 
surface. And the girl uses up all the 
air in the ship to burn pages of a 
log while they’re worrying about 
having oxygen enough to survive — 
and never thinks that the log could 
be simply thrown into some crev- 
asse. 

All of this inadequate thinking 
on elementary science and technol- 
ogy in their situation makes many 
of the plotting devices fail com- 
pletely; and the inventiveness else- 
where is at a very low level. The 
characters are puppets, moving to 
keep things going. The com- 
mander is an unsuspecting, fumbl- 
ing incompetent. The engineer, 
from whose view we see most of 
the story, is described in some de- 
tail, but he only emerges as some- 



THE TALES THEY TELL 



91 



one vaguely unpleasant; he’s ruth- 
lessly dedicated to his own survival, 
but at the crucial moment he can’t 
kill the girl because she’s female — 
even though she’s a proven mur- 
derer! The surgeon lets himself get 
a fatal case of gangrene, though the 
ship is obviously supplied with an- 
tibiotics; he never amounts to any- 
thing, anyhow, so it doesn’t really 
matter. And the girl, who comes 
closest to being a person, is a thor- 
oughly unlikeable bitch who has 
stowed away! That device must 
have taken nerve on the author’s 
part; I’ve used the old chestnut in 
a teen-age book, after careful prep- 
aration, but I admit I wouldn’t 
have the courage to use it in modern 
adult science fiction. However, if 
any of the men had exercised even 
elementary common sense, her 
machinations wouldn’t have mat- 
tered; and the fact that she’s duly 
punished in the end after an ob- 
fuscating dream sequence comes 
as neither a surprise nor a relief. 
The story is meant to be grim and 
hard-hitting, but succeeds in being 
only grimly determined. 

The writing, on the whole, is 
stylistically considerably better than 
Maine’s earlier work. In the pas- 
sages where it has a chance to say 
something, it is quite adequate. 

Far below Ballantine’s usual level 
of science fiction. 

BIG PLANET, by Jack Vance. 
Avalon Books, New York. 223pp. 
$2.75. 



Like most books from Avalon, 
this shows evidence of considerable 
heavy-handed cutting and editing 
that hasn’t improved the 1952 
Startling Stories novel. Apparently 
these books are meant for lending 
libraries where length matters less 
than number of pages, and die aver- 
age of less than 200 words to a page 
doesn’t make for any bargain. 

Nevertheless, if you haven’t read 
the original, this is worth looking 
into. Vance bases his tale on a 
planet larger than Jupiter but of 
such light elements that the sur- 
face gravity is like that of Earth; 
a world so huge that no central 
government or full Earth control 
is possible, where every cult and 
cockeyed group can find room to 
experiment. The Earthman Glystra 
is sent out to investigate one gov- 
ernment whose dictator is threaten- 
ing all of Big Planet. Through du- 
plicity, he is set down 40,000 miles 
from his headquarters, surrounded 
by enemies, crackpot cultures, and 
nobody-knows-what, with only his 
wits to carry him through. 

It makes for an interesting jour- 
ney, and that’s what it is. The char- 
acters in the story are adequate, 
but the real center of interest is the 
journey across the fascinating lands 
of Big Planet, where adventures 
occur regularly, and are given life 
and sparkle by the quick side- 
glances at what lies around them. 
Vance, at his best, has a richness of 
inventiveness and a rare economy 
in gaining his effects, and both 



92 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



show well here. I particularly liked 
the culture of Myrtlesee Fountain 
with its living oracle doomed to 
death as the price of true prophecy 
(all of which is given a logical 
basis). Properly, this is more of a 
tale of wonder than a novel, but 
it’s a good one. 

If you can’t get the original mag- 
azine, look around the lending li- 
braries for this book. (Avalon buys 
rights for a flat price, so you won’t 
be robbing Vance of any royalties.) 
If you’re flush and can find it, you 
might buy the book; the price is 
steep for the amount of wordage, 
but a good talc of this sort is rare. 

THE FROZEN YEAR, by James 
Blish. Ballantine Books, New York. 

I55PP- 35^- . 

This, to my knowledge, is the 
first book of fiction on the Interna- 
tional Geophysical Year, and may 
well prove to be the best one. And 
don’t let anyone fool you — it is 
science fiction,* even if it’s also a 
bitterly amusing story of the effect 
of public relations counselling on 
polar expeditions. 

Cole, the narrator, gets mixed up 
with a publicity-rooting group sup- 
posed to be doing observations for 
the IGY ; the director is actually in- 
terested in proving a cockeyed 
theory of meteorite origin, his wife 
in getting on the front page when 
not grabbing for relief from frus- 
tration. There’s a drunken astron- 



•The author continues to insist that it isn’t.— Ed. 



omer of sorts, and numerous others 
to louse things up. By mismanage- 
ment, the group winds up in a hell 
of a fix, is thoroughly discredited 
for being accidentally right, finds 
evidence that the meteorite theory 
was correct, and — as I insist on be- 
lieving — bumps into a guilt-crazed 
Martian. While all this goes on, 
we get some scalpel work on public 
relations, modern exploration, and 
just about everything else. We also 
get an odd warmth and compas- 
sion (through vivid, interesting 
characterization) that I’ve seldom 
found before in Blish’s work. The 
science is sound; recent evidence 
indicates that even the theory of a 
planet between Mars and Jupiter 
that blew up may well be a correct 
one. 

To me, the only major weakness 
comes at the end; this doesn’t tie 
in well with the narrator’s jinx 
fixation, supposedly still operating 
when the man begins telling the ac- 
count. And I feel it’s a mistake to 
jump from the closeness of one year 
ahead, on which the book is based, 
to a final chapter enough years 
later for space stations to be in 
operation. This destroys some of 
the reality, and isn’t really neces- 
sary. Sometimes the old rules of 
unity of time and place make sense, 
and here the violation of the first 
leaves a note of unfortunate anti- 
climax. 

Still, as an original novel for 35 ^, 
and one of Blish’s and Ballantine’s 
best, it’s a quadruple bargain. Buy. 



THE TALES THEY TELL 



93 



THE 13TH IMMORTAL, by 
Robert Silverberg. 129pp.; THIS 
FORTRESS WORLD, by James 
E. Gunn. 189pp. Ace Books, New 
York. 35^. 

Silverberg’s story is an original, 
having seen no previous publica- 
tion. The basic idea, however, is 
one with a considerable tradition 
behind it — and a tradition that 
should never have been established, 
unfortunately. 

Essentially, it’s a story of a man 
who must find his destiny without 
knowing just what it is. He sets out 
blindly, pushed from pillar to post, 
stumbling from episode to episode, 
failing at everything he tries for 
lack of something better. His only 
success is in running away — and 
this he does only with fortuitous 
help whenever the jam is too tough 
for him. In the end, it turns out 
he’s the son of the ruler of civili- 
zation, destined to take over the 
rule — and somehow, we’re supposed 
to believe that his experience at 
failure makes him worthy of the 
job. The basic idea here is so gro- 
tesquely wrong that nothing good 
can possibly come of it, though 
many writers have tried to beat 
the odds. 

In this case, Silverberg contrib- 
utes several nice bits of background. 
His cybernetic city and logically- 
established haven for mutants are 
enjoyable. His characters, limited 
by the framework, suffer badly, 
however. The hero is good only as 
a farmer in the first chapter. Dic- 



tator Don Miguel comes to brief 
life and then fades out of the ac- 
tion. And the mutant, Dawnspear, 
is excellent — until we find he’s only 
a blind human; we never do learn 
how he, as a non-mutant, can see 
without eyes. 

I can’t help feeling Silverberg 
would have been well-advised to 
let this one appear under a pseud- 
onym. He’s done much better. 

Gunn’s novel was introduced by 
Gnome Press in 1955. It’s another 
of the swashbucklers about an aco- 
lyte who finds his monastic order 
only a false front for a world of 
intrigue. For those who want es- 
cape to a world of fantasy, adven- 
ture, mystery and romance, it’s a 
good buy in this form. It’s hokum — 
but pleasant hokum. 

Department of Pantropy: 

A SOUND OF DIFFERENT 
DRUMMERS, by Robert Alan 
Aurthur. Playhouse 90, CBS. 

In this original play (starring 
Sterling Hayden, Diana Lynn and 
John Ireland), television has finally 
produced a major science fiction 
story worth the attention of an 
adult audience. Aurthur’s story is 
the definitive job on a book-burn- 
ing future, superior in artistry, 
honesty and content to anything 
previously done on this subject. 
If it’s replayed on kinescope or 
made into a movie, see it. If not, 
I hope some publisher will have 
it turned into a book. Congratu- 
lations to all concerned! 



FAREWELL PARTY 



HPhe blue fellow didn’t look 
particularly out of place at the 
cocktail party. He was properly 
dressed— tweed jacket, white shirt, 
tie, all that-but he was blue, of 
course. There were tan people, 
pasty-white ones, three Negroes, an 
Indian (Asian) and a Japanese. 

It was a farewell party for Mas- 
siet of France-Soir. A hundred peo- 
ple were crowded into the two- 
room apartment between Park and 
Lexington in the Eighties. Lindley 
had been to fifty like it. There was 
Suzi, the chanteuse, who would be 
dashing back to the Shubert any 
minute in her waiting Cadillac for 
her final number. There was the 
artists’ model with the black sheath 
gown which inadequately covered 
her breasts. Lindley tried to think 
of her name. There was the Japa- 
nese who smiled and half-bowed 
whenever anyone looked at him, 
still atoning for World War II. 
And there was the blue fellow. 

Lindley forced his way with 
smiles and how-are-yous and par- 
don-mes from the hall to the bar. 
The white-jacketed man from the 
catering service put three cubes in 



by 

Richard Wilson 

a glass and poured Scotch till Lin- 
dley said “Whoa,” then added a 
courtesy of soda. 

Lindley said “Thanks” and 
started to move away. The blue 
fellow was blocking his way. 

“Sorry,” Lindley said. “Oh, hello. 
Everything all right?” 

The blue fellow was holding a 
glass whose ice had long since 
melted. He smiled as if to shrug 
and Lindley said, “Let me get you 
a fresh one.” 

He let Lindley hand his glass to 
the barman. He said nothing. He 
continued to smile, not as if he 
were enjoying himself, and not 
apologetically like the Japanese. It 
was a masking smile, Lindley 
thought, a desperate-almost smile. 

On impulse he said to the bar- 
tender, “Make it a strong one— easy 
on the soda,” and handed it to the 
blue fellow. 

“Are you a friend of Massiet?” 
Lindley asked him. 

The other nodded vigorously. He 
lifted his glass in salute but didn’t 
drink. 

The artists’ model was working 
her way to the bar. She squeezed 



94 



FAREWELL PARTY 



95 



past Lindley, saying, “Hello, 
stranger. Divorce yourself from 
that one, why don’t you?” 

Lindley was willing, but he’d 
better remember her name first. 
“See you later,’’ he said to the girl. 
“Don’t go ’way.” 

The blue fellow watched the 
girl go by. He said nothing but 
his eyes followed her with a sort 
of yearning appreciation. 

“Definitely,” Lindley said. He 
carried on, trying not to seem as 
if he were cross-examining the 
fellow. “Stacked, as we say. How 
do you say it?” 

It seemed to him that the blue 
fellow understood English but 
couldn’t speak it. But he must have 
a name. He could say that much. 

“Look,” Lindley said, “we haven’t 
met. My name’s Lindley. Jason 
Lindley. Cleveland Plain Dealer. 
What’s yours?” 

The other swirled his drink so 
that the ice tinkled. That was the 
only sound out of him. 

The model— Lindley remembered 
now that her name was Naomi- 
made her way back from the bar. 
She eased past a man from Reuters 
who tried unsuccessfully to draw 
her into conversation and stopped 
next to Lindley. “Got a cigarette?” 
she asked him. 

Lindley supplied a Lucky and 
Naomi bent enticingly over the 
match. “Ditch the blue boy,” she 
said. She made a red circle of her 
mouth and blew smoke in his face. 
“Let’s find a quiet corner and dis- 



cuss the state of the world.” 

“Who is he?” Lindley asked her. 
“Do you know?” 

She shrugged, apparently more 
for the purpose of wiggling the 
body than providing information. 
She was extremely physical. “I’ve 
found a place to sit down, believe 
it or not. Don’t be too long.” 
Naomi went back through the 
crowd. 

Lindley regretfully transferred 
his gaze from her disappearing hips 
to the blue fellow’s face. 

“Are you in one of the shows?” 
he asked. The blue might be stage 
makeup. For instance the French 
singer, Suzi, was wearing the gar- 
ish reds and greens which would 
soften when she was back under 
the Shubert’s spotlights. 

But the blue fellow’s color didn’t 
seem to be makeup and he made no 
answer to Lindley’s question. His 
hair was also blue, and Lindley 
observed for the first time that his 
ears were pointed at the tops. 

Massiet, the guest of honor, made 
his way through the crush, holding 
two empty glasses. You met every- 
body if you stood near the bar, 
Lindley thought. 

“Oh, hello,” Massie* said to 
Lindley. “How are you? Still Plain 
Dealing?” 

“Not at the moment,” Lindley 
said. “Introduce me to your friend.” 
“My friend?” Massiet looked at 
the blue fellow. “Oh, hello, mon 
ami. They taking care of you?” 
The blue fellow raised the glass 



96 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



Lindley had refilled for him. He 
smiled and took a swallow. Lindley 
noticed now that his teeth were 
odd, too. They weren’t individual, 
with spaces between them, but 
seemed to be one complete fixture 
like an animal’s hoof— or like the 
teeth in a drawing of a smiling 
girl, all of a piece. 

Massiet had worked past them 
and was behind Lindley now, at 
the bar. Lindley said to him over 
his shoulder, “What’s his name? 
Where’s he from? Can’t he say 
anything?” 

“Who?” Massiet said. “Not so 
much ice. That’s better. Oh, the 
blue one. I don’t know. He drifted 
in. You know how people do.” 
Massiet worked himself back past 
them. “Naomi was asking for you, 
Lindley.” He winked. “Wish she’d 
ask for me.” 

“Look,” Lindley said to the blue 
fellow. “I’ve got to go. I hate to 
be rude, but— Would you mind 
answering one question?” 

The other smiled with his solid 



teeth and shook his head. Lindley 
noticed his ears again. The hair 
that was growing out of them 
somehow reminded him of tiny 
wires, like an antenna. 

“It’ll sound ridiculous, I suppose,” 
Lindley said, “but — are you an 
Earthman?” 

The blue fellow continued to 

smile but his eyes were no longer 
focused on Lindley. It was as if 
he were seeing something that 
wasn’t there. He looked down at 
his watch. Lindley had just enough 
of a glimpse of it to see that it 
didn’t have a conventional 12-hour 
face. Was it 24? Or something else 
entirely? He couldn’t tell. 

The blue fellow turned away 

from Lindley and set his glass 

down. He found a chair and stood 
on it. He raised a hand and held it 
out, palm down, at chest level. 

People said “Sh, sh” and turned 
to face him. The dozens of differ- 
ent conversations died away till the 
room was almost silent. 

The blue fellow stood there, 



RICHARD WILSON published his first science-fiction story in 
1940. His output since then has been relatively small (at least, as 
compared with such torrents of prose as his exact contemporary, C. M. 
Kornbluth). Despite the existence of a Wilson novel, “ The Girls 
From Pla?iet 5 ” (Ballantine Boo\s), Wilson is primarily a minatur- 
ist; he delights in putting a blindingly high polish on an almost invis- 
ible fictional point, like a lapidary fanatically cutting facets in a grain 
of diamond dust. When it is successful, as it often is with Wilson, the 
method requires the reader to register every word, like poetry — and 
with similar rewards. 



FAREWELL PARTY 



97 



looking across the room. But not at 
anyone, Lindley noticed. His gaze 
was on the far wall. He was smil- 
ing with a sort of urgency and 
holding out his hand. He turned 
the hand palm upward. 

There was a tug at Lindley ’s el- 
bow. It was Naomi. 

“Hey,” she said. “How about get- 
ting out of here?” 

“Sh! He’s going to say some- 
thing. Finally.” 

“No he isn’t,” Naomi said. 
“Come on. I’m getting a headache 
from the smoke.” 

“Sure he is,” Lindley said. “Wait 
just a minute.” 

The blue fellow was still stand- 
ing on the chair, still smiling almost 
desperately, still gazing at the oppo- 
site wall. He gestured with his 
hand but spoke not a word. 

Gradually the hubbub of conver- 
sation resumed as the guests turned 
away from him. 

“You mean he isn’t going to say 
anything?” Lindley asked. 

“I told you. He never does.” 

“You sound as if you’ve seen 
him do this before.” 

“Sure I have. He goes to all the 
parties.” 

“/’ve never seen him,” Lindley 
said. 

“You and I don’t always go to 
the same parties, more’s the pity,” 



she said. “He’s a nut, that’s all.” 

“I don’t think he is. I think he 
actually is communicating in some 
way but that no one is able to, to— 
well, to receive him. I think he’s 
an alien.” 

“Sure,” Naomi said. “These par- 
ties are crawling with aliens. Cos- 
mopolitan as hell.” 

“I don’t mean a foreigner. I 
mean somebody not from Earth. 
How about that for a story?” 
“Cut it out, Lind. You’ve been 
seeing too many horror movies.” 
She began to fidget attractively. 
“Are you going to come on, or do 
I have to go home alone?” 

“Well, if you put it that way—” 
He took a last look at the blue 
fellow. He was still standing on 
the chair in silence. By now no one 
was paying the slightest attention 
to him. “Maybe you’re right,” 
Lindley said. “After all, it is my 
day off.” 

He went out with Naomi. There 
probably wasn’t any story, and if 
there was his paper could get it 
from the wire services. As Naomi 
put her arm through his and 
squeezed his hand in the elevator 
he thought with one last twinge 
of duty that there might possibly 
be a very big story. He shrugged 
and returned Naomi’s squeeze. 
Now, if it had been a blue girl . . . 







PERSON-ALYSIS 

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80 “ink blots” that can be used over and over for thousands of 
games. A plastic “ink-blot” holder. A book of interpretation sheets. 
A booklet with playing and scoring instructions with fascinating 
explanations of various interpretations and what they mean. And 
a scoring pad. This full set costs only $3.98. We pay postage. 



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Box 1708, Grand Central Station 
New York 17, N. Y. 

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each. My cash, check or money order is enclosed. 

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A whole culture afloat, with a savage code to drive it — 
but not half so savage as what the outcasts found on land. 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



-I- 

I T WAS THE SPRING SWARMING OF 

the plankton; every man and 
woman and most o£ the children 
aboard Grenville’s Convoy had a 
job to do. As the seventy-five gigan- 
tic sailing ships ploughed their two 
degrees o£ the South Atlantic the 
fluid that foamed beneath their cut- 
waters seethed also with life. In the 
few weeks of the swarming, in the 
few meters of surface water where 
sunlight penetrated in sufficient 
strength to trigger photosynthesis, 
microscopic spores burst into micro- 
scopic plants, were devoured by 
minute animals which in turn were 
swept into the maws of barely 
visible sea monsters almost a tenth 
of an inch from head to tail; these 
in turn were fiercely pursued and 
gobbled in shoals by the fierce little 
brit, the tiny herring and shrimp 
that could turn a hundred miles of 
green water to molten silver before 
your eyes. 

Through the silver ocean of the 



by 

C. M. Kornbluth 

swarming the Convoy scudded and 
tacked in great controlled zigs and 
zags, reaping the silver of the sea 
in the endlessly reeling bronze nets 
each ship payed out behind. 

The Commodore in Grenville 
did not sleep during the swarming; 
he and his staff dispatched cutters 
to scout the swarms, hung on the 
meterologists’ words, digested the 
endless reports from the scout ves- 
sels and toiled through the night to 
prepare the dawn signal. The main- 
mast flags might tell the captains 
“Convoy course five degrees right”, 
or “Two degrees left”, or only 
“Convoy course: no change”. On 
those dawn signals depended the 
life for the next six months of the 
million and a quarter souls of the 
Convoy. It had not happened often, 
but it had happened that a suc- 
cession of blunders reduced a Con- 
voy’s harvest below the minimum 
necessary to sustain life. Derelicts 
were sometimes sighted and sal- 
vaged from such convoys; strong- 

99 



100 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



stomached men and women were 
needed for the first boarding and 
clearing away of human debris. 
Cannibalism occurred, an obscene 
thing one had nightmares about. 

The seventy-five captains had 
their own particular purgatory to 
endure throughout the harvest, the 
Sail-Seine Equation. It was their 
job to balance the push on the sails 
and the drag of the ballooning 
seines so that push exceeded drag 
by just the number of pounds that 
would keep the ship on course and 
in station, given every conceivable 
variation of wind force and direc- 
tion, temperature of water, con- 
sistency of brit, and smoothness of 
hull. Once the catch was salted 
down it was customary for the cap- 
tains to converge on Grenville for 
a roaring feast by way of letdown. 

Rank had its privileges. There 
was no such relief for the captains’ 
Net Officers or their underlings for 
Operations and Maintenance, or 
for their Food Officers under whom 
served the Processing and Stowage 
people. They merely worked, 
streaming the nets twenty-four 
hours a day, keeping them bellied 
out with lines from mast and out- 



riding gigs, keeping them spooling 
over the great drum amidships, 
tending the blades that had to 
scrape the brit from the nets with- 
out damaging the nets, repairing 
the damage when it did occur, and 
without interruption of the harvest, 
flash-cooking the part of the har- 
vest to be cooked, drying the part 
to be dried, pressing oil from the 
harvest as required, and stowing 
what was cooked and dried and 
pressed where it would not spoil, 
where it would not alter the trim 
of the ship, where it would not be 
pilfered by children. This went on 
for weeks after the silver had gone 
thin and patchy against the green, 
and after the silver had altogether 
vanished. 

The routines of many were not 
changed at all by the swarming 
season. The blacksmiths, the sail- 
makers, the carpenters, the water- 
tenders, to a degree the store- 
keepers, functioned as before, tend- 
ing to the fabric of the ship, re- 
newing, replacing, reworking. The 
ships were things of brass, bronze 
and unrusting steel. Phosphor 
bronze strands were woven into 
net, lines and cables; cordage, masts 



C. M. KORNBLUTH is a one-man literature . Within a year after 
his appearance in science fiction in 1940, he was operating under 
seven pen-names, and in 10 years turned out 43 stories — sometimes 
by himself, sometimes in collaboration with other writers. In the 
succeeding seven years he has written 19 booths; of these, the most 
widely known is “The Space Merchants” , with Frederik Pohl 
( Ballantine Books)- He is now at work on a 20th, a Civil War novel. 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



101 



and hull were metal; all were in- 
spected daily by the First Officer 
and his men and women for the 
smallest pin-head of corrosion. The 
smallest pin-head of corrosion 
could spread; it could send a ship 
to the bottom before it had done 
spreading, as the chaplains were 
fond of reminding worshippers 
when the ships rigged for church 
on Sundays. To keep the hellish 
red of iron rust and the sinister 
blue of copper rust from invading, 
the squads of oilers were always on 
the move, with oil distilled from 
the catch. The sails and the clothes 
alone could not be preserved; they 
wore out. It was for this that the 
felting machines down below chop- 
ped wornout sails and clothing in- 
to new fibers and twisted and 
rolled them with kelp and with 
glue from the catch into new felt 
for new sails and clothing. 

While the plankton continued to 
swarm twice a year, Grenville’s 
convoy could continue to sail the 
South Atlantic, from ten-mile limit 
to ten-mile limit. Not one of the 
seventy-five ships in the convoy 
had an anchor. 

The Captain’s Party that follow- 
ed the end of Swarming 283 was 
slow getting under way. Me Bee, 
whose ship was Port Squadron 19, 
said to Salter of Starboard Squad- 
ron 30: “To be frank, I’m too 
damned exhausted to care whether 
I ever go to another party, but I 
didn’t want to disappoint the Old 
Man.” 



The Commodore, trim and 
bronzed, not showing his eighty 
years, was across the great cabin 
from them greeting new arrivals. 

Salter said: “You’ll feel differ- 
ently after a good sleep. It was a 
great harvest, wasn’t it? Enough 
weather to make it tricky and in- 
teresting. Remember 276? That 
was the one that wore me out. A 
grind, going by the book. But this 
time, on the fifteenth day my fore- 
topsail was going to go about noon, 
big rip in her, but I needed her for 
my S-S balance. What to do? I 
broke out a balloon spinnaker- 
now wait a minute, let me tell it 
first before you throw the book at 
me— and pumped my fore trim tank 
out. Presto! No trouble; foretop- 
sail replaced in fifteen minutes.” 
McBee was horrified. “You could 
have lost your net!” 

“My weatherman absolutely ruled 
out any sudden squalls.” 
“Weatherman. You could have 
lost your net!” 

Salter studied him. “Saying that 
once was thoughtless, McBee. Say- 
ing it twice is insulting. Do you 
think I’d gamble with twenty thou- 
sand lives?” 

McBee passed his hands over his 
tired face. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I 
told you I was exhausted. Of course 
under special circumstances it can 
be a safe maneuver.” He walked to 
a porthole for a glance at his own 
ship, the nineteenth in the long 
echelon behind Grenville. Salter 
stared after him. “Losing one’s 



102 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



net” was a phrase that occurred in 
several proverbs; it stood for abys- 
mal folly. In actuality a ship that 
lost its phosphor-bronze wire mesh 
was doomed, and quickly. One 
could improvise w'ith sails or try 
to jury-rig a net out of the remain- 
ing rigging, but not well enough 
to feed twenty thousand hands, 
and no fewer than that were needed 
for maintenance. Grenville’s Con- 
voy had met a derelict which lost 
its net back before 240; children 
still told horror stories about it, 
how the remnants of port and star- 
board watches, mad to a man, were 
at war, a %var of vicious night 
forays with knives and clubs. 

Salter went to the bar and ac- 
cepted from the Commodore’s ste- 
ward his first drink of the evening, 
a steel tumbler of colorless fluid 
distilled from a fermented mash of 
sargassum weed. It was about forty 
per cent alcohol and tasted pleas- 
antly of iodides. 

He looked up from his sip and 
his eyes widened. There was a man 
in captain’s uniform talking with 
the Commodore and he did not 
recognize his face. But there had 
been no promotions lately! 

The Commodore saw him look- 
ing and beckoned him over. He 
saluted and then accepted the old 
man’s hand-clasp. ‘‘Captain Salter,” 
the Commodore said, “my youngest 
and rashest, and my best harvester. 
Salter, this is Captain Degerand of 
the White Fleet.” 

Salter frankly gawked. He knew 



perfectly well that Grenville’s Con- 
voy was far from sailing alone up- 
on the seas. On watch he had be- 
held distant sails from time to time. 
He was aware that cruising the 
two-degree belt north of theirs was 
another convoy and that in the 
belt south of theirs was still another, 
in fact that the seaborne popula- 
tion of the world was a constant 
one billion, eighty million. But 
never had he expected to meet face 
to face any of them except the one 
and a quarter million who sailed 
under Grenville’s flag. 

Degerand was younger than he, 
all deeply tanned skin and flashing 
pointed teeth. His uniform was per- 
fecdy ordinary and very queer. He 
understood Salter’s puzzled look. 
“It’s woven cloth,” he said. “The 
White Fleet was launched several 
decades after Grenville’s. By then 
they had machinery to reconstitute 
fibers suitable for spinning and 
they equipped us with it. It’s six 
of one and half a dozen of the 
other. I think our sails may last 
longer than yours, but the looms 
require a lot of skilled labor when 
they break down.” 

The Commodore had left them. 

“Are we very different from 
you?” Salter asked. 

Degerand said: “Our differences 
are nothing. Against the dirt men 
we are brothers— blood brothers.” 

The term “dirt men” was dis- 
comforting; the juxtaposition with 
“blood” more so. Apparently he 
was referring to whoever it was 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



103 



that lived on the continents and 
islands— a shocking breach of man- 
ners, of honor, of faith. The words 
of The Charter circled through 
Salter’s head. . . return for the 
sea and its bounty . . . renounce 
and abjure the land from which 
we . . Salter had been ten years 
old before he knew that there 
were continents and islands. His 
dismay must have shown on his 
face. 

“They have doomed us,” the 
foreign captain said. “We cannot 
refit. They have sent us out, each 
upon our two degrees of ocean in 
larger or smaller convoys as the 
richness of the brit dictated, and 
they have cut us off. To each of us 
will come the catastrophic storm, 
the bad harvest, the lost net, and 
death.” 

It was Salter’s impression that 
Degerand had said the same words 
many times before, usually to large 
audiences. 

The Commodore’s talker boomed 
out: “Now hear this!” His huge 
voice filled the stateroom easily; 
j: his usual job was to roar through 
1 a megaphone across a league of 
[ ocean, supplementing flag and lamp 
signals. “Now hear this!” he 
, boomed. “There’s tuna on the table 
—big fish for big sailors!” 

A grinning steward whisked a 
felt from the sideboard, and there 
by Heaven it lay! A great baked 
fish as long as your leg, smoking 
hot and trimmed with kelp! A hun- 
gry roar greeted it; the captains 



made for the stack of trays and 
began to file past the steward, busy 
with knife and steel. 

Salter marvelled to Degerand: 
“I didn’t dream there were any left 
that size. When you think of the 
tons of brit that old-timer must 
have gobbled!” 

The foreigner said darkly: “We 
slew the whales, the sharks, the 
perch, the cod, the herring— every- 
thing that used the sea but us. 
They fed on brit and one another 
and concentrated it in firm savory 
flesh like that, but we were jealous 
of the energy squandered in the 
long food chain; we decreed that 
the chain would stop with the link 
brit-to-man.” 

Salter by then had filled a tray. 
“Brit’s more reliable,” he said. “A 
convoy can’t take chances on fish- 
erman’s luck.” He happily bolted 
a steaming mouthful. 

“Safety is not everything,” Deger- 
and said. He ate, more slowly than 
Salter. “Your Commodore said you 
were a rash seaman.” 

“He was joking. If he believed 
that, he would have to remove me 
from command.” 

The Commodore walked up to 
them, patting his mouth with a 
handkerchief and beaming. “Sur- 
prised, eh?” he demanded. “Glas- 
gow’s lookout spotted that big fel- 
low yesterday half a kilometer 
away. He signalled me and I told 
him to lower and row for him. 
The boat crew sneaked up while 
he was browsing and gaffed him 



104 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



clean. Very virtuous of us. By kill- 
ing him we economize on brit and 
provide a fitting celebration for 
my captains. Eat hearty! It may be 
the last we’ll ever see.” 

Degerand rudely contradicted his 
senior officer. “They can’t be wiped 
out clean, commodore, not extermi- 
nated. The sea is deep. Its genetic 
potential cannot be destroyed. We 
merely make temporary alterations 
of the feeding balance.” 

“Seen any sperm whale lately?” 
the Commodore asked, raising his 
white eyebrows. “Go get yourself 
another helping, captain, before it’s 
gone.” It was a dismissal; the for- 
eigner bowed and went to the 
buffet. 

The Commodore asked: “What 
do you think of him?” 

“He has some extreme ideas,” 
Salter said. 

“The White Fleet appears to 
have gone bad,” the old man said. 
“That fellow showed up on a cut- 
ter last week in the middle of har- 
vest wanting my immediate, per- 
sonal attention. He’s on the staff of 
the White Fleet Commodore. I 
gather they’re all like him. They’ve 
got slack; maybe rust has got ahead 
of them, maybe they’re overbreed- 
ing. A ship lost its net and they 
didn’t let it go. They cannibalized 
rigging from the whole fleet to 
make a net for it.” 

“But-” 

“But— but— but. Of course it was 
the wrong thing and now they’re 
all suffering. Now they haven’t the 



stomach to draw lots and cut their 
losses.” He lowered his voice. 
“Their idea is some sort of raid on 
the Western Continent, that Amer- 
ica thing, for steel and bronze and 
whatever else they find not welded 
to the deck. It’s nonsense, of course, 
spawned by a few silly-clever peo- 
ple on the staff. The crews will 
never go along with it. Degerand 
was sent to invite us in!” 

Salter said nothing for a while 
and then: “I certainly hope we’ll 
have nothing to do with it.” 

“I’m sending him back at dawn 
with my compliments, and a nega- 
tive, and my sincere advice to his 
Commodore that he drop the whole 
thing before his own crew hears 
of it and has him bowspritted.” The 
Commodore gave him a wintry 
smile. “Such a reply is easy to 
make, of course, just after conclud- 
ing an excellent harvest. It might 
be more difficult to signal a nega- 
tive if we had a couple of ships 
unnetted and only enough catch in 
salt to feed sixty per cent of the 
hands. Do you think you could give 
the hard answer under those cir- 
cumstances?” 

“I think so, sir.” 

The Commodore walked away, 
his face enigmatic. Salter thought 
he knew what was going on. He 
had been given one small foretaste 
of top command. Perhaps he was 
being groomed for Commodore— 
not to succeed the old man, surely, 
but his successor. 

McBee approached, full of big 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



105 



fish and drink. “Foolish thing I 
said,” he stammered. “Let’s have 
drink, forget about it, eh?” 

He was glad to. 

“Damn fine seaman!” McBee 
yelled after a couple more drinks. 
“Best litde captain in the Convoy I 
Not a scared old crock like poor old 
McBee, ’fraid of every puff of 
wind!” 

And then he had to cheer up 
McBee until the party began to thin 
out. McBee fell asleep at last and 
Salter saw him to his gig before 
boarding his own for the long row 
to the bobbing masthead lights of 
his ship. 

Starboard Squadron Thirty was 
at rest in the night. Only the slowly- 
moving oil lamps of the women on 
their ceaseless rust patrol were alive. 
The brit catch, dried, came to some 
seven thousand tons. It was a com- 
fortable margin over the 5,670 tons 
needed for six months’ full rations 
before the autumnal swarming and 
harvest. The trim tanks along the 
keel had been pumped almost dry 
by the ship’s current prison popu- 
lation as the cooked and dried and 
salted cubes were stored in the 
glass-lined warehouse tier; the gi- 
gantic vessel rode easily on a swell- 
ing sea before a Force One westerly 
breeze. 

Salter was exhausted. He thought 
briefly of having his cox’n whistle 
for a bosun’s chair so that he might 
be hauled at his ease up the fifty- 
yard cliff that was the hull before 
them, and dismissed the idea with 



regret. Rank hath its privileges and 
also its obligations. He stood up in 
the gig, jumped for the ladder and 
began the long climb. As he passed 
the portholes of the cabin tiers he 
virtuously kept eyes front, on 
the bronze plates of the hull inches 
from his nose. Many couples in 
the privacy of their double cabins 
would be celebrating the end of the 
back-breaking, night-and-day toil. 
One valued privacy aboard the 
ship; one’s own 648 cubic feet of 
cabin, one’s own porthole, acquired 
an almost religious meaning, par- 
ticularly after the weeks of swarm- 
ing cooperative labor. 

Taking care not to pant, he fin- 
ished the climb with a flourish, 
springing onto the flush deck. 
Then* was no audience. Feeling a 
little ridiculous and forsaken, he 
walked aft in the dark with only 
the wind and the creak of the rig- 
ging in his ears. The five great 
basket masts strained silently be- 
hind their breeze-filled sails; he 
paused a moment beside Wednes- 
day mast, huge as a redwood, and 
put his hands on it to feel the 
fiower that vibrated in its steel 
latticework. 

Six intent women went past, their 
hand lamps sweeping the deck; he 
jumped, though they never noticed 
him. They were in something like 
a trance state while on their tour of 
duty. Normal courtesies were sus- 
pended for them; with their work 
began the job of survival. One thou- 
sand women, five per cent of the 



106 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



ship’s company, inspected night 
and day for corrosion. Sea water 
is a vicious solvent and the' ship 
had to live in it; fanaticism was 
the answer. 

His stateroom above the rudder 
waited; the hatchway to it glowed 
a hundred feet down the deck with 
the light of a wasteful lantern. 
After harvest, when the tanks 
brimmed with oil, one type acted 
as though the tanks would brim 
forever. The captain wearily 
walked around and over a dozen 
stay-ropes to the hatchway and blew 
out the lamp. Before descending 
he took a mechanical look around 
the deck; all was well— 

Except for a patch of paleness at 
the fan tail. 

“Will this day never end?” he 
asked the darkened lantern and 
went to the fantail. The patch was 
a little girl in a night dress wan- 
dering aimlessly over the deck, her 
thumb in her mouth. She seemed 
to be about two years old, and was 
more than half asleep. She could 
have gone over the railing in a 
moment; a small wail, a small 
splash— 

He picked her up like a feather. 
“Who’s your daddy, princess?” he 
asked. 

“Dunno,” she grinned. The devil 
she didn’t! It was too dark to read 
her ID necklace and he was too 
tired to light the lantern. He 
trudged down the deck to the crew 
of inspectors. He said to their chief: 
“One of you get this child back to 



her parents’ cabin,” and held her 
out. 

The chief was indignant. “Sir, 
we are on watch!” 

“File a grievance with the Com- 
modore if you wish. Take the 
child.” 

One of the rounder women did, 
and made cooing noises while her 
chief glared. “Bye-bye, princess,” 
the captain said. “You ought to be 
keel-hauled for this, but I’ll give 
you another chance.” 

“Bye-bye,” the little girl said, 
waving, and the captain went 
yawning down the hatchway to 
(red. 

His stateroom was luxurious by 
the austere standards of the ship. 
It was equal to six of the standard 
nine-by-nine cabins in volume, or 
to three of the double cabins for 
couples. These however had some- 
thing he did not. Officers above 
the rank of lieutenant were celi- 
bate. Experience had shown that 
this was the only answer to nep- 
otism, and nepotism was a luxury 
which no convoy could afford. It 
meant, sooner or later, inefficient 
command. Inefficient command 
meant, sooner or later, death. 

Because he thought he would not 
sleep, he did not. 

Marriage. Parenthood. What a 
strange business it must be! To 
share a bed with a wife, a cabin 
with two children decently behind 
their screen for sixteen years . . . 
what did one talk about in bed? 
His last mistress had hardly talked 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



107 



at all, except with her eyes. When 
these showed signs that she was 
falling in love with him. Heaven 
knew why, he broke with her as 
quietly as possible and since then 
irritably rejected the thought of 
acquiring a successor. That had 
been two years ago when he was 
38, and already beginning to feel 
like a cabin-crawler fit only to be 
dropped over the fantail into the 
wake. An old lecher, a rou£, a user 
of women. Of course she had talked 
a little; what did they have in com- 
mon to talk about? With a wife 
ripening beside him, with children 
to share, it would have been dif- 
ferent. That pale, tall quiet girl de- 
served better than he could give; 
he hoped she was decently married 
now in a double cabin, perhaps 
already heavy with the first of her 
two children. 

A whistle squeaked above his 
head; somebody was blowing into 
one of the dozen speaking tubes 
clustered against the bulkhead. 
Then a push-wire popped open the 
steel lid of Tube Seven, Signals. 
He resignedly picked up the flex- 
ible reply tube and said into it: 
“This is the captain. Go ahead.” 

“Grenville signals Force Three 
squall approaching from astern, 
sir.” 

“Force Three squall from astern. 
Turn out the fore-starboard watch. 
Have them reef sail to Condition 
Charlie.” 

“Fore-starboard watch, reef sail 
to Condition Charlie, aye-aye.” 



“Execute.” 

“Aye-aye, sir.” The lid of Tube 
Seven, Signals, popped shut. At 
once he heard the distant, pene- 
trating shrill of the pipe, the faint 
vibration as one sixth of the deck 
crew began to stir in their cabins, 
awaken, hit the deck bleary-eyed, 
begin to trample through the cor- 
ridors and up the hatchways to the 
deck. He got up himself and pulled 
on clothes, yawning. Reefing from 
Condition Fox to Condition 
Charlie was no serious matter, not 
even in the dark, and Walters on 
watch was a good officer. But he’d 
better have a look. 

Being flush-decked, the ship of- 
fered him no bridge. He conned 
her from the “first top” of Friday 
mast, the rearmost of her five. The 
“first top” was a glorified crow’s 
nest fifty feet up the steel basket- 
work of that great tower; it af- 
forded him a view of all masts and 
spars in one glance. 

He climbed to his command post 
too far gone for fatigue. A full 
moon now lit the scene; good. That 
much less chance of a green top- 
man stepping on a ratline that 
would prove to be a shadow and 
hurtling two hundred feet to the 
deck. That much more snap in the 
reefing; that much sooner it would 
be over. Suddenly he was sure he 
would be able to sleep if he ever 
got back to bed again. 

He turned for a look at the 
bronze, moonlit heaps of the great 
net on the fantail. Within a week 



108 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



it would be cleaned and oiled; 
within two weeks stowed below in 
the cable tier, safe from wind and 
weather. 

The regiments of the fore-star- 
board watch swarmed up the masts 
from Monday to Friday, swarmed 
out along the spars as bosun’s 
whistles squealed out the drill — 

The squall struck. 

Wind screamed and tore at him; 
the captain flung his arms around 
a stanchion. Rain pounded down 
upon his head and the ship reeled 
in a vast, slow curtsey, port to star- 
board. Behind him there was a 
metal sound as the bronze net 
shifted inches sideways, back. 

The sudden clouds had blotted 
out the moon; he could not see 
the men who swarmed along the 
yards but with sudden terrible clar- 
ity he felt through the soles of his 
feet what they were doing. They 
were clawing their way through 
the sail-reefing drill, blinded and 
deafened by sleety rain and wind. 
They were out of phase by now; 
they were no longer trying to 
shorten sail equally on each mast; 
they were trying to get the thing 
done and descend. The wind 
screamed in his face as he turned 
and clung. Now they were ahead 
of the job on Monday and Tuesday 
masts, behind the job on Thurs- 
day and Friday masts. 

So the ship was going to pitch. 
The wind would catch it unequally 
and it would kneel in prayer, the 
cutwater plunging with a great, 



deep stately obeisance down into 
the fathoms of ocean, the stern soar- 
ing slowly, ponderously, into the 
air until the topmost rudder-trun- 
nion streamed a hundred-foot cas- 
cade into the boiling froth of the 
wake. 

That was half the pitch. It hap- 
pened, and the captain clung, 
groaning aloud. He heard above 
the screaming wind loose gear rat- 
tling on the deck, clashing forward 
in an avalanche. He heard a heavy 
clink at the stern and bit his lower 
lip until it ran with blood that the 
tearing cold rain flooded from his 
chin. 

The pitch reached its maximum 
and the second half began, after 
interminable moments when she 
seemed frozen at a five-degree angle 
forever. The cutwater rose, rose, 
rose, the bowsprit blocked out hori- 
zon stars, the loose gear counter- 
charged astern in a crushing tide of 
bales, windlass cranks, water- 
breakers, stilling coils, steel sun re- 
flectors, lashing tails of bronze rig- 
ging— 

Into the heaped piles of the net, 
straining at its retainers on the two 
great bollards that took root in the 
keel itself four hundred feet below. 
The energy of the pitch hurled the 
belly of the net open, crashing, into 
the sea. The bollards held for a 
moment. 

A retainer cable screamed and 
snapped like a man’s back, and 
then the second cable broke. The 
roaring slither of the bronze links 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



109 



thundering over the fantail shook 
the ship. 

The squall ended as it had come; 
the clouds scudded on and the 
moon bared itself, to shine on a 
deck scrubbed clean. The net was 
lost. 

Captain Salter looked down the 
fifty feet from the rim of the crow’s 
nest and thought: I should jump. 
It would be quicker that way. 

But he did not. He slowly began 
to climb down the ladder to the 
bare deck. 

— II — 

Having no electrical equipment, 
the ship was necessarily a represen- 
tative republic rather than a de- 
mocracy. Twenty thousand people 
can discuss and decide only with 
the aid of microphones, loud- 
speakers and rapid calculators to 
balance the ayes and noes. With 
lungpower the only means of com- 
munication and an abacus in a 
clerk’s hands the only tallying de- 
vice, certainly no more than fifty 
people can talk together and make 
sense, and there are pessimists who 
say the number is closer to five than 
fifty. The Ship’s Council that met 
at dawn on the fantail numbered 
fifty. 

It was a beautiful dawn; it lifted 
the heart to see salmon sky, irides- 
cent sea, spread white sails of the 
convoy ranged in a great slanting 
line across sixty miles of oceanic 
blue. 



It was the kind of dawn for 
which one lived — a full catch salted 
down, the water-butts filled, the 
evaporators trickling from their 
thousand tubes nine gallons each 
sunrise to sunset, wind enough for 
easy steerageway and a pretty 
spread of sail. These were the re- 
wards. One hundred and forty- 
one years ago Grenville’s Convoy 
had been launched at Newport 
News, Virginia, to claim them. 

Oh, the high adventure of the 
launching! The men and women 
who had gone aboard thought them- 
selves heroes, conquerors of nature, 
self-sacrificers for the glory of 
NEMET! But NEMET meant 
only Northeastern Metropolitan 
Area, one dense warren that 
stretched from Boston to Newport, 
built up and dug down, sprawling 
westward, gulping Pittsburgh with- 
out a pause, beginning to peter out 
past Cincinnati. 

The first generation asea clung 
and sighed for the culture of NE- 
MET, consoled itself with its pa- 
triotic sacrifice; any relief was bet- 
ter than none at all, and Grenville’s 
Convoy had drained one and a 
quarter million population from 
the huddle. They were immigrants 
into the sea; like all immigrants 
they longed for the Old Country. 
Then the second generation. Like 
all second generations they had no 
patience with the old people or 
their tales. This was real, this sea, 
this gale, this rope! Then the third 
generation. Like all third genera- 



110 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



lions it felt a sudden desperate hol- 
lowness and lack of identity. What 
was real? Who are we? What is 
NEMET which we have lost? But 
by then grandfather and grand- 
mother could only mumble vague- 
ly; the cultural heritage was gone, 
squandered in three generations, 
spent forever. As always, the fourth 
generation did not care. 

And those who sat in counsel 
on the fantail were members of 
the fifth and sixth generations. 
They knew all there was to know 
about life. Life was the hull and 
masts, the sail and rigging, the net 
and the evaporators. Nothing more. 
Nothing less. Without masts diere 
was no life. Nor was there life 
without the net. 

The ship’s council did not com- 
mand; command was reserved to 
the captain and his officers. The 
council governed, and on occasion 
tried criminal cases. During the 
black Winter Without Harvest 
eighty years before it had decreed 
euthanasia for all persons over 
sixty-three years of age and for 
one out of twenty of the other 
adults aboard. It had rendered 
bloody judgment on the ring- 
leaders of Peak’s Mutiny. It had 
sent them into the wake and Peak 
himself had been bowspritted, 
given the maritime equivalent of 
crucifixion. Since then no megalo- 
maniacs had decided to make life 
interesting for their shipmates, so 
Peak’s long agony had served its 
purpose. 



The fifty of them represented 
every department of the ship and 
every age-group. If there was wis- 
dom abroad, it was concentrated 
there on the fantail. But there was 
little to say. 

The eldest of them, Retired Sail- 
maker Hodgins, presided. Vener- 
ably bearded, still strong of voice, 
he told them: 

“Shipmates, our accident has 
come. We are dead men. Decency 
demands that we do not spin out 
the struggle and sink into — unlaw- 
ful eatings. Reason tells us that we 
cannot survive. What I propose is 
an honorable voluntary death for 
us all, and the legacy of our ship’s 
fabric to be divided among the re- 
mainder of the convoy at the dis- 
cretion of the Commodore.” 

He had little hope of his old 
man’s viewpoint prevailing. The 
Chief Inspector rose at once. She 
had only three words to say: “Not 
my children .” 

Women’s heads nodded grimly, 
and men’s with resignation. De- 
cency and duty and common sense 
were all very well until you ran up 
against that steel bulkhead. Not 
my children. 

A brilliant young chaplain asked: 
“Has the question even been raised 
as to whether a collection among 
the fleet might not provide cordage 
enough to improvise a net?” 

Captain Salter should have an- 
swered that, but he, murderer of 
the twenty thousand souls in his 
care, could not speak. He nodded 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



111 



jerkily at his signals officer. 

Lieutenant Zwingli temporized 
by taking out his signals slate and 
pretending to refresh his memory. 
He said: “At 0035 today a lamp 
signal was made to Grenville ad- 
vising that our net was lost. Gren- 
ville replied as follows: ‘Effective 
now, your ship no longer part of 
convoy. Have no recommendations. 
Personal sympathy and regrets. 
Signed, Commodore.’ ” 

Captain Salter found his voice. 
“I’ve sent a couple of other mes- 
sages to Grenville and to our 
neighboring vessels. They do not 
reply. This is as it should be. We 
are no longer part of the convoy. 
Through our own — lapse — we have 
become a drag on the convoy. We 
cannot look to it for help. I have 
no word of condemnation for any- 
body. This is how life is.” 

The chaplain folded his hands 
and began to pray inaudibly. 

And then a council member 
spoke whom Captain Salter knew 
in another role. It was Jewel Flyte, 
the tall, pale girl who had been 
his mistress two years ago. She 
must be serving as an alternate, he 
thought, looking at her with new 
eyes. He did not know she was 
even that; he had avoided her since 
then. And no, she was not married; 
she wore no ring. And neither was 
her hair drawn back in the semi- 
official style of the semi-official vol- 
untary celibates, the super-patriots 
(or simply sex-shy people, or dis- 
likers of children) who surrendered 



their right to reproduce for the 
good of the ship (or their own con- 
venience). She was simply a girl in 
the uniform of a — a what? He had 
to think hard before he could 
match the badge over her breast to 
a department. She was Ship’s Ar- 
chivist with her crossed key and 
quill, an obscure clerk and shelf- 
duster under — far under! — the 
Chief of Yeomen Writers. She must 
have been elected alternate by the 
Yeomen in a spasm of sympathy 
for her blind-alley career. 

“My job,” she said in her calm 
steady voice, “is chiefly to search 
for precedents in the Log when un- 
usual events must be recorded and 
nobody recollects offhand the form 
in which they should be recorded. 
It is one of those provoking jobs 
which must be done by someone 
but which cannot absorb the full 
time of a person. I have therefore 
had many free hours of actual 
working time. I have also remained 
unmarried and am not inclined to 
sports or games. I tell you this so 
you may believe me when I say 
that during the past two years I 
have read the Ship’s Log in its en- 
tirety.” 

There was a little buzz. Truly an 
astonishing, and an astonishingly 
pointless, thing to do! Wind and 
weather, storms and calms, mes- 
sages and meetings and censuses, 
crimes, trials and punishments of 
a hundred and forty-one years; 
what a bore! 

“Something I read,” she went on, 



112 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



“may have some bearing on our 
dilemma.” She took a slate from 
her pocket and read : “Extract from 
the Log dated June 30th, Convoy 
Year 72. ‘The Shakespeare-Joyce- 
Melville Party returned after dark 
in the gig. They had not accom- 
plished any part of their mission. 
Six were dead of wounds; all bodies 
were recovered. The remaining six 
were mentally shaken but re- 
sponded to our last ataractics. They 
spoke of a new religion ashore and 
its consequences on population. I 
am persuaded that we seabornes can 
no longer relate to the continentals. 
The clandestine shore trips will 
cease.’ The entry is signed ‘Scolley, 
Captain’.” 

A man named Scolley smiled for 
a brief proud moment. His ances- 
tor! And then like the others he 
waited for the extract to make 
sense. Like the others he found that 
it would not do so. 

Captain Salter wanted to speak, 
and wondered how to address her. 
She had been “Jewel” and they all 
knew it; could he call her “Yeoman 
Flyte” without looking like, being, 
a fool? Well, if he was fool enough 
to lose his net he was fool enough 
to be formal with an ex-mistress. 
“Yeoman Flyte,” he said, “where 
does the extract leave us?” 

In her calm voice she told them 
all: “Penetrating the few obscure 
words, it appears to mean that until 
Convoy Year 72 the Charter was 
regularly violated, with the con- 
nivance of successive captains. I 



suggest that we consider violating it 
once more, to survive.” 

The Charter. It was a sort of 
ground-swell of their ethical life, 
learned early, paid homage every 
Sunday when they were rigged for 
church. It was inscribed in phos- 
phor bronze plates on Monday 
mast of every ship at sea, and the 
wording was always the same. 

IN RETURN FOR THE SEA 
AND ITS BOUNTY WE RE- 
NOUNCE AND ABJURE FOR 
OURSELVES AND OUR DE- 
SCENDANTS THE LAND 
FROM WHICH WE SPRUNG: 
FOR THE COMMON GOOD 
OF MAN WE SET SAIL FOR- 
EVER. 

At least half of them were un- 
consciously murmuring the words. 

Retired Sailmaker Hodgins rose, 
shaking. “Blasphemy!” he said. 
“The woman should be bow- 
spritted!” 

The chaplain said thoughtfully: 
“I know a little more about what 
constitutes blasphemy than Sail- 
maker Hodgins, I believe, and as- 
sure you that he is mistaken. It is 
a superstitious error to believe that 
there is any religious sanction for 
the Charter. It is no ordinance of 
God but a contract between men.” 

“It is a Revelation!” Hodgins 
shouted. “A Revelation! It is the 
newest testament! It is God’s finger 
pointing the way to the clean hard 
life at sea, away from the grubbing 
and filth, from the overbreeding 
and the sickness!” 



HEAP THE DARK TIDE 

That was a common view. 

"What about my children ?” de- 
manded the Chief Inspector. “Does 
God want them to starve or be — 
be — ” She could not finish the ques- 
tion, but the last unspoken word of 
it rang in all their minds. 

Eaten. 

Aboard some ships with an ac- 
cidental preponderance of the el- 
derly, aboard other ships where 
some blazing personality genera- 
tions back had raised the Charter 
to a powerful cult, suicide might 
have been voted. Aboard other 
ships where nothing extraordinary 
had happened in six generations, 
where things had been easy and 
the knack and tradition of hard 
decision-making had been lost, 
there might have been confusion 
and inaction and the inevitable de- 
generation into savagery. Aboard 
Salter’s ship the Council voted to 
send a small party ashore to inves- 
tigate. They used every imaginable 
euphemism to describe the action, 
took six hours to make up their 
minds, and sat at last on the fan- 
tail cringing a little, as if waiting 
for a thunderbolt. 

The shore party would consist 
of Salter, Captain; Flyte, Archivist; 
Pemberton, Junior Chaplain; 
Graves, Chief Inspector. 

Salter climbed to his conning top 
on Friday mast, consulted a chart 
from the archives, and gave the 
order through speaking tube to the 
tiller gang: “Change course red 
four degrees.” 



113 

The repeat came back incredu- 
lously. 

“Execute,” he said. The ship 
creaked as eighty men heaved the 
tiller; imperceptibly at first the 
wake began to curve behind them. 

Ship Starboard 30 departed from 
its ancient station; across a mile of 
sea the bosun’s whistles could be 
heard from Starboard 31 as she put 
on sail to close the gap. 

“They might have signaled 
something,” Salter thought, drop- 
ping his glasses at last on his chest. 
But the masthead of Starboard 31 
remained bare of all but its com- 
mission pennant. 

He whistled up his signals officer 
and pointed to their own pennant. 
“Take that thing down,” he said 
hoarsely, and went below to his 
cabin. 

The new course would find them 
at last riding off a place the map 
described as New York City. 

— Ill — 

Salter issued what he expected 
would be his last commands to 
Lieutenant Zwingli; the whaleboat 
was waiting in its davits; the other 
three were in it. 

“You’ll keep your station here as 
well as you’re able,” said the cap- 
tain. “If we live, we’ll be back in 
a couple of months. Should we not 
return, that would be a potent ar- 
gument against beaching the ship 
and attempting to live off the con- 
tinent — but it will be your problem 



114 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



then and not mine.” 

They exchanged salutes. Salter 
sprang into the whaleboat, signalled 
the deck hands standing by at the 
ropes and the long creaking descent 
began. 

Salter, Captain; age 40; un- 
married ex officio ; parents Clayton 
Salter, master instrument main- 
tenanceman, and Eva Romano, 
chief dietician; selected from dame 
school age ten for A Track training; 
seamanship school certificate at age 
16, navigation certificate at age 20, 
First Lieutenants School age 24, 
commissioned ensign age 24; lieu- 
tenant at 30, commander at 32; com- 
missioned captain and succeeded to 
command of Ship Starboard 30 the 
same year. 

Flyte, Archivist, age 25; un- 
married; parents Joseph Flyte, en- 
tertainer, and Jessie Waggoner, en- 
tertainer; completed dame school 
age 14, B Track training, Yeoman’s 
School certificate at age 16, Ad- 
vanced Yeoman’s School certificate 
at age 18, Efficiency rating, 3.5. 

Pemberton, Chaplain, age 30; 
married to Riva Shields, nurse; no 
children by choice; parents Will 
Pemberton, master distiller-water- 
tender, and Agnes Hunt, felter- 
machinist’s mate; completed dame 
school age 12, B Track training, 
Divinity School Certificate at age 
20; mid-starboard watch curate, 
later forestarboard chaplain. 

Graves, chief inspector, age 34, 
married to George Omany, black- 
smith third class; two children; 



completed dame school age 15, In- 
spectors School Certificate at age 
16; inspector third class, second 
class, first class, master inspector, 
then chief. Efficiency rating, 4.0; 
three commendations. 

Versus the Continent of North 
America. 

They all rowed for an hour; then 
a shoreward breeze came up and 
Salter stepped the mast. “Ship your 
oars,” he said, and then wished 
he dared countermand the order. 
Now they would have time to think 
of what they were doing. 

The very water they sailed was 
different in color from the deep 
water they knew, and different in 
its way of moving. The life in it — 

“Great God!” Mrs. Graves cried, 
pointing astern. 

It was a huge fish, half the size 
of their boat. It surfaced lazily and 
slipped beneath the water in an un- 
interrupted arc. They had seen 
steel-grey skin, not scales, and a 
great slit of a mouth. 

Salter said, shaken: “Unbeliev- 
able. Still, I suppose in the unfished 
offshore waters a few of the large 
forms survive. And the intermedi- 
ate sizes to feed them — ” And foot- 
long smaller sizes to feed them, 
and — 

Was it mere arrogant presump- 
tion that Man had permanently 
changed the life of the sea? 

The afternoon sun slanted down 
and the tip of Monday mast sank 
below the horizon’s curve astern; 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



115 



the breeze that filled their sail 
bowled them towards a mist which 
wrapped vague concretions they 
feared to study too closely. A shad- 
owed figure huge as a mast with 
one arm upraised; behind its blocks 
and blocks of something solid. 

“This is the end of the sea,” said 
the captain. 

Mrs. Graves said what she would 
have said if a silly under-inspector 
had reported to her blue rust on 
steel: “Nonsense!” Then, stammer- 
ing: “I beg your pardon, captain. 
Of course you are correct.” 

“But it sounded strange,” Chap- 
lain Pemberton said helpfully. “I 
wonder where they all are?” 

Jewel Flyte said in her quiet way: 
“We should have passed over the 
discharge from waste tubes before 
now. They used to pump their 
waste through tubes under the sea 
and discharge it several miles out. 
It colored the water and it stank. 
During the first voyaging years the 
captains knew it was time to tack 
away from land by the color and 
the bad smell.” 

“They must have improved their 
disposal system by now,” Salter 
said, “It’s been centuries.” 

His last word hung in the air. 
The chaplain studied the mist 
from the bow. It was impossible to 
deny it; the huge thing was an 
Idol. Rising from the bay of a great 
city, an Idol, and a female one — 
the worst kind! “I thought they 
had them only in High Places,” he 
muttered, discouraged. 



Jewel Flyte understood. “I think 
it has no religious significance,” she 
said. “It’s a sort of — huge piece of 
scrimshaw.” 

Mrs. Graves studied the vast 
thing and saw in her mind the 
glyphic arts as practiced at sea: 
compacted kelp shaved and whit- 
tled into little heirloom boxes, min- 
iature portrait busts of children. 
She decided that Yeoman Flyte had 
a dangerously wild imagination. 
Scrimshaw! Tall as a mast! 

There should be some commerce, 
thought the captain. Boats going to 
and fro. The Place ahead was 
plainly an island, plainly inhabited; 
goods and people should be going 
to it and coming from it. Gigs and 
cutters and whaleboats should be 
plying this bay and those two 
rivers; at that narrow bit they 
should be lined up impatiently 
waiting, tacking and riding under 
sea anchors and furled sails. There 
w r as nothing but a few white birds 
that shrilled nervously at their soli- 
tary boat. 

The blocky concretions were 
emerging from the haze; they were 
sunset-red cubes with regular black 
eyes dotting them; they were huge 
dice laid down side by side by side, 
each as large as a ship, each there- 
fore capable of holding twenty 
thousand persons. 

Where were they all? 

The breeze and the tide drove 
them swiftly through the neck of 
water where a hundred boats should 
be waiting. “Furl the sail,” said 



116 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



Salter. “Out oars.” 

With no sounds but the whisper 
of the oarlocks, the cries of the 
white birds and the slapping of the 
wavelets they rowed under the 
shadow of the great red dice to a 
dock, one of a hundred teeth pro- 
jecting from the island’s rim. 

“Easy the starboard oars,” said 
Salter; “handsomely the port oars. 
Up oars. Chaplain, the boat hook.” 
He had brought them to a steel 
ladder; Mrs. Graves gasped at the 
red rust thick on it. Salter tied the 
painter to a corroded brass ring. 
“Come along,” he said, and began 
to climb. 

When the four of them stood on 
the iron-plated dock Pemberton, 
naturally, prayed. Mrs. Graves fol- 
lowed the prayer with half her at- 
tention or less; the rest she could 
not divert from the shocking slov- 
enliness of the prospect — rust, dust, 
litter, neglect. What went on in the 
mind of Jewel Flyte her calm face 
did not betray. And the captain 
scanned those black windows a 
hundred yards inboard — no; in- 
land! — and waited and wondered. 

They began to walk to them at 
last, Salter leading. The sensation 
underfoot was strange and dead, 
tiring to the arches and the thighs. 

The huge red dice were not as 
insane close-up as they had ap- 
peared from a distance. They were 
thousand-foot cubes of brick, the 
stuff that lined ovens. They were 
set back within squares of green, 
cracked surfacing which Jewel 



Flyte named “cement” or “con- 
crete” from some queer corner of 
her erudition. 

There was an entrance, and writ- 
ten over it: THE HERBERT 
BROWNELL JR. MEMORIAL 
HOUSES. A bronze plaque shot a 
pang of guilt through them all as 
they thought of The Compact, but 
its words were different and ig- 
noble. 

NOTICE TO ALL TENANTS 
A Project Apartment is a Priv- 
ilege and not a Right. Daily 
Inspection is the Cornerstone 
of the Project. Attendance at 
Least Once a Week at the 
Church of Synagogue of your 
Choice is Required for Famil- 
lies wishing to remain in Good 
Standing; Proof of Attendance 
must be presented on Demand. 
Possession of Tobacco or Alco- 
hol will be considered Prima 
Facie Evidence of Undesire- 
ability. Excessive Water Use, 
Excessive Energy Use and 
Food Waste will be Grounds 
for Desireability Review. The 
speaking of Languages other 
than American by persons over 
the Age of Six will be con- 
sidered Prima Facie Evidence 
of Nonassimilability, though 
this shall not be construed to 
prohibit Religious Ritual in 
Languages other than Amer- 
can. 

Below it stood another plaque in 
paler bronze, an afterthought: 
None of the foregoing shall 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



117 



be construed to condone the 
Practice of Depravity under the 
Guise of Religion by Whatever 
Name, and all Tenants are 
warned that any Failure to re- 
port the Practice of Depravity 
will result in summary Evic- 
tion and Denunciation. 

Around this later plaque some 
hand had painted with crude 
strokes of a tar brush a sort of ana- 
tomical frame at which they stared 
in wondering disgust. 

At last Pemberton said: “They 
were a devout people.” Nobody 
noticed the past tense, it sounded 
so right. 

“Very sensible,” said Mrs. Graves. 
“No nonsense about them.” 
Captain Salter privately dis- 
agreed. A ship run with such dour 
coercion would founder in a 
month; could land people be that 
much different? 

Jewel Flyte said nothing, but her 
eyes were wet. Perhaps she was 
thinking of scared little human 
rats dodging and twisting through 
the inhuman maze of great fears 
and minute rewards. 

“After all,” said Mrs. Graves, “It’s 
nothing but a Cabin Tier. We have 
cabins and so had they. Captain, 
might we have a look?” 

“This is a reconnaissance,” Salter 
shrugged. They went into a lit- 
tered lobby and easily recognized 
an elevator which had long ago 
ceased to operate; there were many 
hand-run dumbwaiters at sea. 

A gust of air flapped a sheet of 



printed paper across the chaplain’s 
ankles; he stooped to pick it up 
with a kind of instinctive outrage 
— leaving paper unsecured, perhaps 
to blow overboard and be lost for- 
ever to the ship’s economy! Then 
he flushed at his silliness. “So 
much to unlearn,” he said, and 
spread the paper to look at it. A 
moment later he crumpled it in a 
ball and hurled it from him as 
hard and as far as he could, and 
wiped his hands with loathing on 
his jacket. His face was utterly 
shocked. 

The others stared. It was Mrs. 
Graves who went for the paper. 

“Don’t look at it,” said the chap- 
lain. 

“I think she’d better,” Salter said. 

The maintenancewoman spread 
the paper, studied it and said: “Just 
some nonsense. Captain, what do 
you make of it?” 

It was a large page torn from a 
book, and on it were simple poly- 
chrome drawing and some lines of 
verse in the style of a child’s first 
reader. Salter repressed a shocked 
guffaw. The picture was of a little 
boy and a little girl quaintly dressed 
locked in murderous combat, us- 
ing teeth and nails. “Jac!{ and Jill 
went up the hill," said the text, “to 
fetch a pail of water. She threw 
facl{ down and bro\e his crown; 
it was a lovely slaughter." 

Jewel Flyte took the page from 
his hands. All she said was, after 
a long pause: “I suppose they 
couldn’t start them too young.” 



118 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



She dropped die page and she too 
wiped her hands. 

“Come along,” the captain said. 
“We’ll try the stairs.” 

The stairs were dust, rat-dung, 
cobwebs and two human skeletons. 
Murderous knuckledusters fitted 
loosely the bones of the two right 
hands. Salter hardened himself to 
pick up one of the weapons, but 
could not bring himself to try it on. 
Jewel Flyte said apologetically: 
“Please be careful, captain. It might 
be poisoned. That seems to be the 
way they were.” 

Salter froze. By God, but the 
girl was right! Delicately, han- 
dling the spiked steel thing by its 
edges, he held it up. Yes; stains — 
it would be stained, and perhaps 
with poison also. He dropped it 
into the thoracic cage of one skele- 
ton and said: “Come on.” They 
climbed in quest of a dusty light 
from above; it was a doorway onto 
a corridor of many doors. There 
was evidence of fire and violence. 
A barricade of queer pudgy chairs 
and divans had been built to block 
the corridor, and had been 
breached. Behind it were sprawled 
three more heaps of bones. 

“They have no heads,” the chap- 
lain said hoarsely. “Captain Salter, 
this is not a place for human be- 
ings. We must go back to the ship, 
even if it means honorable death. 
This is not a place for human be- 
ings.” 

“Thank you, chaplain,” said 
Salter. “You’ve cast your vote. Is 



anybody with you?” 

“Kill your own children, chap- 
lain,” said Mrs. Graves. “Not 
mine.” 

Jewel Flyte gave the chaplain a 
sympathetic shrug and said: “No.” 

One door stood open, its lock 
shattered by blows of a fire axe. 
Salter said: “We’ll try that one." 
They entered into the home of an 
ordinary middle-class death-wor- 
shipping family as it had been a 
century ago, in the one hundred 
and thirty-first year of Merdeka the 
Chosen. 

— IV — 

Merdeka the Chosen, the All- 
Foreigner, the Ur-Alien, had never 
intended any of it. He began as a 
retail mail-order vendor of movie 
and television stills, eight-by-ten 
glossies for the fan trade. It was 
a hard dollar; you had to keep an 
immense stock to cater to a tottery 
Mae Bush admirer, to the pony- 
tailed screamer over Rip Torn, and 
to everybody in between. He would 
have no truck with pinups. “Dirty, 
lascivious pictures!” he snarled 
when broadly-hinting letters ar- 
rived. “Filth! Men and women 
kissing, ogling, pawing each other! 
Orgies! Bah!” Merdeka kept a 
neutered dog, a spayed cat, and a 
crumpled uncomplaining house- 
keeper who was technically his 
wife. He was poor; he was very 
poor. Yet he never neglected his 
charitable duties, contributing every 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



119 



year to the Planned Parenthood 
Federation and the Midtown Hys- 
terectomy Clinic. 

They knew him in the Third 
Avenue saloons where he talked 
every night, arguing with Irishmen, 
sometimes getting asked outside to 
be knocked down. He let them 
knock him down, and sneered from 
the pavement. Was this their argu- 
ment? He could argue. He spewed 
facts and figures and cliches in un- 
answerable profusion. Hell, man, 
the Russians’U have a bomb base 
on the moon in two years and in 
two years the Army and the Air 
Force will still be beating each 
other over the head with pigs’ blad- 
ders. Just a minute, let me tell you: 
the goddammycin’s making idiots 
of us all; do you know of any chil- 
dren born in the past two years 
that’re healthy? And: ’flu be go to 
hell; it’s our own germ warfare 
from Camp Crowder right outside 
Baltimore that got out of hand, 
and it happened the week of the 
24th. And: The human animal’s ob- 
solete; they’ve proved at M.I.T., 
Steinwitz and Kohlmann proved 
that the human animal cannot sur- 
vive the current radiation levels. 
And: enjoy your lung-cancer, 

friend; for every automobile and 
its stinking exhaust there will be 
two-point-seven-oh-three cases of 
lung cancer, and we’ve got to have 
our automobiles, don’t we? And: 
delinquency my foot; they’re in- 
sane and it’s got to the point where 
the economy cannot support mass 



insanity; they’ve got to be castrated; 
it’s the only way. And : they should 
dig up the body of MetchnikofT and 
throw it to the dogs; he’s the de- 
generate who invented venereal 
prophylaxis and since then vice 
without punishment has run hog- 
wild through the world; what we 
need on the streets is a few of those 
old-time locomotor ataxia cases 
limping and drooling to show the 
kids where vice leads. 

He didn’t know where he came 
from. The delicate New York way 
of establishing origins is to ask: 
“Merdeka, hah? What kind of a 
name is that now?” And to this 
he would reply that he wasn’t a 
lying Englishman or a loud- 
mouthed Irishman or a perverted 
Frenchman or a chiseling Jew or a 
barbarian Russian or a toadying 
German or a thickheaded Scandi- 
hoovian, and if his listener didn’t 
like it, what did he have to say in 
reply ? 

He was from an orphanage, and 
die legend at the orphanage was 
that a policeman had found him, 
two hours old, in a garbage can co- 
incident with the death by hemmor- 
rhage on a trolley car of a luedc 
young woman whose named ap- 
peared to be Merdeka and who had 
certainly been recently delivered 
of a child. No other facts were es- 
tablished, but for generation after 
generauon of orphanage inmates 
there was great solace in having 
one of their number who indisput- 
ably had got off to a worse start 



120 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



than they. 

A watershed of his career oc- 
curred when he noticed that he 
was, for the seventh time that year, 
re-ordering prints of scenes from 
Mr. Howard Hughes’ production 
The Outlaw. These were not the 
off-the-bust stills of Miss Jane Rus- 
sell, surprisingly, but were group 
scenes of Miss Russell suspended by 
her wrists and about to be whipped. 
Merdeka studied the scene, growled 
“Give it to the bitch!” and doubled 
the order. It sold out. He canvassed 
his files for other whipping and 
torture stills from Desert Song- type 
movies, made up a special assort- 
ment, and it sold out within a 
week. Then he knew. 

The man and the opportunity 
had come together, for perhaps the 
fiftieth time in history. He hired a 
model and took the first specially 
posed pictures himself. They 
showed her cringing from a whip, 
tied to a chair with a clothesline, 
and herself brandishing the whip. 

Within two months Merdeka 
had cleared six thousand dollars 
and he put every cent of it back 
into more photographs and direct- 
mail advertising. Within a year he 
was big enough to attract the post- 
office obscenity people. He went 
to Washington and screamed in 
their faces: “My stuff isn’t obscene 
and I’ll sue you if you bother me, 
you stilhking bureaucrats! You 
show me one breast, you show me 
one behind, you show me one 
human being touching another in 



my pictures! You can’t and you 
know you can’t! I don’t believe in 
sex and I don’t push sex, so you 
leave me the hell alone! Life is 
pain and suffering and being 
scared so people like to look at my 
pictures; my pictures are about 
the m, the scared little jerks! You’re 
just a bunch of goddam perverts 
if you think there’s anything dirty 
about my pictures!” 

He had them there; Merdeka’s 
girls always wore at least full pan- 
ties, bras and stockings; he had 
them there. The Post-office obscen- 
ity people were vaguely positive 
that there was something wrong 
with pictures of beautiful women 
tied down to be whipped or burned 
with hot irons, but what? 

The next year they tried to get 
him on his income tax; those de- 
ductions for the Planned Parent- 
hood Federation and the Midtown 
Hysterectomy Clinic were prepos- 
terous, but he proved them with 
canceled checks to the last nickel. 
“In fact,” he indignantly told them, 
“I spend a lot of time at the Clinic 
and sometimes they let me watch 
the operations. That's how highly 
they think of me at the Clinic.” 
The next year he started 
DEATH: the Weekly Picture 
Magazine with the aid of a half- 
dozen bright young grads from 
new Harvard School of Commun- 
icationeering. As DEATH’S Com- 
municator in Chief (only yesterday 
he would have been its Publisher, 
and only fifty years before he 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



121 



would have been its Editor) he 
slumped biliously in a pigskin-pan- 
elled office, peering suspiciously at 
the closed-circuit TV screen which 
had a hundred wired eyes through- 
out DEATH'S offices, sometimes 
growling over the voice circuit: 
“You! What’s your name? Boland? 
You’re through, Boland. Pick up 
your time at the paymaster.” For 
any reason; for no reason. He was 
a living legend in his narrow-lapel 
charcoal flannel suit and stringy 
bullfighter neckties; the bright 
young men in their Victorian Re- 
vival frock coats and pearl-pinned 
cravats wondered at his — not “ob- 
stinacy”; not when there might be 
a mike even in the corner saloon; 
say, his “timelessness”. 

The bright young men became 
bright young-old men, and the 
magazine which had been con- 
ceived as a vehicle for deadheading 
house ads of the mail order picture 
business went into the black. On 
the cover of every issue of DEATH 
was a pictured execution-of-the- 
week, and no price for one was ever 
too high. A fifty-thousand-dollar 
donation to a mosque had pur- 
chased the right to secretly snap the 
Bread Ordeal by which perished 
a Yemenite suspected of tapping an 
oil pipeline. An interminable il- 
lustrated History of Flagellation 
was a staple of the reading matter, 
and the Medical Section (in color) 
was tremendously popular. So too 
was the weekly Traffic Report. 

When the last of the Compact 



Ships was launched into the Pacific 
the event made DEATH because 
of the several fatal accidents which 
accompanied the launching; other- 
wise Merdeka ignored the ships. It 
was strange that he who had un- 
orthodoxies about everything had 
no opinion at all about tbe Compact 
Ships and their crews. Perhaps it 
was that he really knew he was the 
greatest manslayer who ever lived, 
and even so could not face com- 
manding total extinction, includ- 
ing that of the seaborne leaven. The 
more articulate Sokei-an, who in 
the name of Rinzei Zen Buddhism 
was at that time depopulating the 
immense area dominated by China, 
made no bones about it: “Even I 
in my Hate may err; let the celes- 
tial vessels be.” The opinions of 
Dr. Spat, European member of 
the trio, are forever beyond recovery 
due to his advocacy of the “one- 
generation” plan. 

With advancing years Merdeka’s 
wits cooled and gelled. There came 
a time when he needed a theory 
and was forced to stab the button 
of the intercom for his young-old 
Managing Communicator and 
growl at him: “Give me a theory!” 
And the M.C. reeled out: “The 
structural intermesh of DEATH: 
the Weekly Picture Magazine with 
Western culture is no random 
point-event but a rising world-line. 
Predecessor attitudes such as the 
Hollywood dogma ‘No tits — blood!’ 
and the tabloid press’ exploitation 
of violence were floundering and 



122 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



empirical. It was Merdeka who 
sigma-ized the convergent traits of 
our times and asymptotically con- 
gruendzes with them publication- 
wise. Wrestling and the roller- 
derby as blood sports, the routiniza- 
don of femicide in the detective 
tale, the standardization at one mil- 
lion per year of traffic fatalities, the 
wholesome interest of our youth 
in gang rumbles, all point toward 
the Age of Hate and Death. The 
ethic of Love and Life is obsoles- 
cent, and who is to say that Man 
is the loser thereby? Life and 
Death compete in the marketplace 
of ideas for the Mind of Man — ” 

Merdeka growled something and 
snapped off the set. Merdeka leaned 
back. Two billion circulation this 
week, and the auto ads were begin- 
ning to Tip. Last year only the sug- 
gestion of a dropped shopping 
basket as the Dynajetic 16 roared 
across the page, this year a hand, 
limp on the pictured pavement. 
Next year, blood. In February the 
Sylphella Salon chain ads had 
Tipped, with a crash. “ — and the 
free optional judo course for slen- 
derized Madame or Mademoiselle: 
learn how to kill a man with your 
lovely bare hands, with or without 
mess as desired.” Applications had 
risen 28 per cent. By God there 
was a structural intermesh for you! 

It was too slow; it was still too 
slow. He picked up a direct-line 
phone and screamed into it: ‘‘Too 
slow I What am I paying you people 
for? The world is wallowing in 



filth! Movies are dirtier than ever! 
Kissing! Pawing! Ogling! Men 
and women together — obscene! 
Clean up the magazine covers! 
Clean up the ads!” 

The person at the other end of 
the direct line was Executive Sec- 
retary of the Society for Purity in 
Communications; Merdeka had no 
need to announce himself to him, 
for Merdeka was S.P.C.’s principal 
underwriter. He began to rattle off 
at once: “We’ve got the Mothers’ 
March on Washington this week, 
sir, and a mass dummy porno- 
graphic mailing addressed to every 
Middle Atlantic State female be- 
tween the ages of six and twelve 
next week, sir; I believe this one- 
two punch will put the Federal 
Censorship Commission over the 
goal line before recess — ” 

Merdeka hung up. “Lewd com- 
munications,” he snarled. “Breed- 
ing, breeding, breeding, like mag- 
gots in a garbage can. Burning and 
breeding. But we will make them 
clean.” 

He did not need a Theory to tell 
him that he could not take away 
Love without providing a substi- 
tute. 

He walked down Sixth Avenue 
that night, for the first time in 
years. In this saloon he had argued; 
outside that saloon he had been 
punched in the nose. Well, he was 
winning the argument, all the argu- 
ments. A mother and daughter 
walked past uneasily, eyes on the 
shadows. The mother was dressed 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



123 



Square; she wore a sheath dress 
that showed her neck and clavicles 
at the top and her legs from mid- 
shin at the bottom. In some parts 
of town she’d be spat on, but the 
daughter, never. The girl was Hip; 
she was covered from neck to 
ankles by a loose, unbelted sack- 
culotte. Her mother’s hair floated; 
hers was hidden by a cloche. Never- 
theless the both of them were 
abruptly yanked into one of those 
shadows they prudently had eyed, 
for they had not watched the well- 
lit sidewalk for waiting nooses. 

The familiar sounds of a Work- 
ing Over came from the shadows 
as Merdeka strolled on. “I mean 
cool!” an ecstatic young voice — 
boy’s, girl’s, what did it matter? — 
breathed between crunching blows. 

That year the Federal Censor- 
ship Commission was created, and 
the next year the old Internment 
Camps in the southwest were filled 
to capacity by violators, and the 
next year the First Church of Mer- 
deka was founded in Chicago. Mer- 
deka died of an aortal aneurism 
five years after that, but his soul 
went marching on. 

—V— 

“The Family that Prays together 
Slays together”, was the wall-motto 
in the apartment, but there was no 
evidence that the implied injunc- 
tion had been observed. The bed- 
room of the mother and the father 
were secured by steel doors and 



terrific locks, but Junior had got 
them all the same; somehow he 
had burned through the steel. 

“Thermite?” Jewel Flyte asked 
herself softly, trying to remember. 
First he had got the father, quickly 
and quietly with a wire garotte as 
he lay sleeping, so as not to alarm 
his mother. To her he had taken 
her own spiked knobkerry and got 
in a mortal stroke, but not before 
she reached under her pillow for a 
pistol. Junior’s teen-age bones testi- 
fied by their arrangement to the 
violence of that leaden blow. 

Incredulously they looked at the 
family library of comic books, pub- 
lished in a series called “The Mer- 
dekan Five-Foot Shelf of Classics”. 
Jewel Flyte leafed slowly through 
one called Moby Die and found 
that it consisted of a near-braining 
in a bedroom, agonizingly-depicted 
deaths at sea, and for a climax the 
eating alive of one Ahab by a 
monster. “Surely there must have 
been more,” she whispered. 

Chaplain Pendleton put down 
Hamlet quickly and held onto a 
wall. He was quite sure that he felt 
his sanity slipping palpably away, 
that he would gibber in a moment. 
He prayed and after a while felt 
better; he rigorously kept his eyes 
away from the Classics after that. 

Mrs. Graves snorted at the waste 
of it all, at the picture of the ugly, 
pop-eyed, busted-nose man labeled 
MERDEKA THE CHOSEN, 
THE PURE, THE PURIFIER. 
There were two tables, which was 



124 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



a folly. Who needed two tables? 
Then she looked closer, saw that 
one of them was really a blood- 
stained flogging bench and felt 
slightly ill. Its name-plate said 
Correctional Furniture Corp. Size 6, 
Ages 10-14. She had, God knew, 
slapped her children more than 
once when they deviated from her 
standard of perfection, but when 
she saw those stains she felt a stir- 
ring of warmth for the parricidal 
bones in the next room. 

Captain Salter said: “Let’s get 
organized. Does anybody think 
there are any of them left ? ” 

“I think not,” said Mrs. Graves. 
“People like that can’t survive. The 
world must have been swept clean. 
They, ah, killed one another but 
that’s not the important point. This 
couple had one child, age ten to 
fourteen. This cabin of theirs seems 
to be built for one child. We should 
look at a few more cabins to learn 
whether a one-child family is — was 
— normal. If we find out that it 
was, we can suspect that they are — 
gone. Or nearly so.” She coined a 
happy phrase: “By race suicide.” 
“The arithmetic of it is quite 
plausible,” Salter said. “If no factors 
work except the single-child factor, 
in one century of five generations 
a population of two billion will 
have bred itself down to 125 mil- 
lion. In another century, the popu- 
lation is just under four million. 
In another, 122 thousand ... by 
the thirty-second generation the 
last couple descended from the orig- 



inal two billion will breed one 
child, and that’s the end. And there 
are the other factors. Besides those 
who do not breed by choice — ” His 
eyes avoided Jewel Flyte. “ — there 
are the things we have seen on the 
stairs, and in the corridor, and in 
these compartments.” 

“Then there’s our answer,” said 
Mrs. Graves. She smacked the ob- 
scene table with her hand, forget- 
ting what it was. “We beach the 
ship and march the ship’s com- 
pany onto dry land. We clean up, 
we learn what we have to to get 
along — ” Her words trailed off. She 
shook her head. “Sorry,” she said 
gloomily. “I’m talking nonsense.” 
The chaplain understood her, but 
he said: “The land is merely an- 
other of the many mansions. Surely 
they could learn!” 

“It’s not politically feasible,” 
Salter said. “Not in its present 
form.” He thought of presenting 
the proposal to the Ship’s Council 
in the shadow of the mast that bore 
The Compact, and twitched his 
head in an involuntary negative. 

“There is a formula possible,” 
Jewel Flyte said. 

The Brownells burst in on them 
then, all eighteen of the Brownells. 
They had been stalking the shore 
party since its landing. Nine sack- 
culotted women in cloches and nine 
men in penitential black, they 
streamed through the gaping door 
and surrounded the sea people with 
a ring of spears. Other factors had 
indeed operated, but this was not 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



125 



yet the thirty-second generation o£ 
extinction. 

The leader o£ the Brownells, a 
male, said with satisfaction: “Just 
when we needed new blood.” Salter 
understood that he was not speak- 
ing in genetic terms. 

The females, more verbal types, 
said critically: “Whores, obviously. 
Displaying their limbs without 
shame, brazenly flaunting the rot- 
ted pillars of the temple of lust. 
Come from the accursed sea itself, 
abode of infamy, to seduce us from 
our decent and regular lives.” 
“We know what to do with the 
women,” said the male leader. The 
rest took up the antiphon. . 
“We’ll knock them down.” 

“And roll them on their backs.” 
“And pull one arm out and tie 
it fast.” 

“And pull the other arm out 
and tie it fast.” 

“And pull one limb out and tie 
it fast.” 

“And pull the other limb out and 
tie it fast.” 

“And then — ” 

“We’ll beat them to death and 
Mcrdeka will smile.” 

Chaplain Pemberton stared in- 
credulously. “You must look into 
your hearts,” he told them in a 
reasonable voice. “You must look 
deeper than you have, and you will 
find that you have been deluded. 
This is not the way for human be- 
ings to act. Somebody has misled 
you dreadfully. Let me explain — ” 
“Blasphemy,” the leader of the 



females said, and put her spear ex- 
pertly into the chaplain’s intestines. 
The shock of the broad, cold blade 
pulsed through him and felled him. 
Jewel Flyte knelt beside him in- 
stantly, checking heart beat and 
breathing. He was alive. 

“Get up,” the male leader said. 
“Displaying and offering yourself 
to such as we is useless. We are 
pure in heart.” 

A male child ran to the door. 
“Wagners!” he screamed. “Twenty 
Wagners coming up the stairs!” 

His father roared at him: 
“Stand straight and don’t mum- 
ble!” and slashed out with the butt 
of his spear, catching him hard in 
the ribs. The child grinned, but 
only after the pure-hearted eighteen 
had run to the stairs. 

Then he blasted a whistle down 
the corridor while the sea-people 
stared with what attention they 
could divert from the bleeding 
chaplain. Six doors popped open at 
the whistle and men and women 
emerged from them to launch 
spears into the backs of the Brown- 
ells clustered to defend the stairs. 
“Thanks, pop!” the boy kept 
screaming while the pure-hearted 
Wagners swarmed over the rem- 
nants of the pure-hearted Brown- 
ells; at last his screaming bothered 
one of the Wagners and the boy 
was himself speared. 

Jewel Flyte said: “I’ve had 

enough of this. Captain, please pick 
the chaplain up and come along.” 

“They’ll kill us.” 



126 



VANGUARD SCIENCE FICTION 



“You’ll have the chaplain,” said 
Mrs. Graves. “One moment." She 
darted into a bedroom and came 
back hefting the spiked knobkerry. 

“Well, perhaps,” the girl said. 
She began undoing the long row 
of buttons down the front of her 
coveralls and shrugged out of the 
garment, then unfastened and step- 
ped out of her underwear. With the 
clothes over her arm she walked 
into the corridor and to the stairs, 
the stupefied captain and inspector 
following. 

To the pure-hearted Merkdeans 
she was not Phryne winning her 
case; she was Evil incarnate. They 
screamed, broke and ran wildly, 
dropping their weapons. That a 
human being could do such a thing 
was beyond their comprehension; 
Merdeka alone knew what kind of 
monster this was that drew them 
strangely and horribly, in violation 
of all sanity. They ran as she had 
hoped they would; the other side 
of the coin was spearing even more 
swift and thorough than would 
have been accorded to her fully 
clothed. But they ran, gibbering 
with fright and covering their eyes, 
into apartments and corners of the 
corridor, their back turned on the 
awful thing. 

The sea-people picked their way 
over the shambles at the stairway 
and went unopposed down the 
stairs and to the dock. It was a 
troublesome piece of work for Sal- 
ter to pass the chaplain down to 
Mrs. Graves in the boat, but in ten 



minutes they had cast off, rowed 
out a little and set sail to catch the 
land breeze generated by the differ- 
ential twilight cooling of water and 
brick. After playing her part in 
stepping the mast, Jewel Flyte 
dressed. 

“It won’t always be that easy,” 
she said when the last button was 
fastened. Mrs. Graves had been 
thinking the same thing, but had 
not said it to avoid the appearance 
of envying that superb young body. 

Salter was checking the chaplain 
as well as he knew how. “I think 
lie’ll be all right,” he said. “Surgical 
repair and a long rest. He hasn’t 
lost much blood. This is a strange 
story we’ll have to tell the Ship’s 
Council.” 

Mrs. Graves said: “They’ve no 
choice. We’ve lost our net and the 
land is there waiting for us. A few 
maniacs oppose us — what of it?” 

Again a huge fish lazily surfaced; 
Salter regarded it thoughtfully. He 
said: “They’ll propose scavenging 
bronze ashore and fashioning an- 
other net and going on just as if 
nothing had happened. And really, 
we could do that, you know.” 

Jewel Flyte said: “No. Not for- 
ever. This time it was the net, at 
the end of harvest. What if it were 
three masts in midwinter, in mid- 
Atlantic?” 

“Or,” said the captain, “the rudder 
— any time. Anywhere. But can you 
imagine telling the Council they’ve 
got to walk off the ship onto land, 
take up quarters in those brick 



REAP THE DARK TIDE 



127 



cabins, change everything? And 
fight maniacs, and learn to farm?" 

“There must be a way,” said 
Jewel Flyte. “Just as Merdeka, 
whatever it was, was a way. There 
were too many people, and Merdeka 
was the answer to too many people. 
There’s always an answer. Man is 
a land mammal in spite of brief ex- 
cursions at sea. We were seed stock 
put aside, waiting for the land to 
be cleared so we could return. Just 
as these offshore fish are waiting 
very patiently for us to stop harvest- 
ing twice a year so they can return 
to deep water and multiply. What’s 
the way, captain?” 

He thought hard. “We could,” he 
said slowly, “begin by simply sail- 
ing in close and fishing the offshore 
waters for big stuff. Then tie up 
and build a sort of bridge from the 
ship to the shore. We’d continue to 
live aboard the ship but we’d go 
out during daylight to try farm- 
ing.” 

“It sounds right.” 

“And keep improving the bridge, 
making it more and more solid, 
until before they notice it it’s really 
a solid part of the ship and a solid 
part of the shore. It might take . . . 
mmm . . . ten years?” 

“Time enough for the old shell- 
backs to make up their minds,” 
Mrs. Graves unexpectedly snorted. 

“And we’d relax the one-to-one 
reproduction rule, and some young 
adults will simply be crowded over 
the bridge to live on the land — ” 



His face suddenly fell. “And then 
the whole damned farce starts all 
over again, I suppose. I pointed out 
that it takes thirty-two generations 
bearing one child apiece to run a 
population of two billion into zero. 
Well, I should have mentioned 
that it takes thirty-two generations 
bearing four children apiece to run 
a population of two into two bil- 
lion. Oh, what’s the use, Jewel?” 
She chuckled. “There was an an- 
swer last time,” she said. “There 
will be an answer the next time.” 
“It won’t be the same answer as 
Merdeka,” he vowed. “We grew up 
a little at sea. This time we can do 
it with brains and not with night- 
mares and superstition.” 

“I don’t know,” she said. “Our 
ship will be the first, and then the 
other ships will have their accidents 
one by one and come and tie up 
and build their bridges hating 
every minute of it for the first two 
generations and then not hating it, 
just living it . . . and who will be 
the greatest man who ever lived?” 
The captain looked horrified. 
“Yes, you! Salter, the Builder of 
the Bridge; Tommy, do you know 
an old word for ‘bridge-builder’? 
Pontifex." 

“Oh, my God!” Tommy Salter 
said in despair. 

A flicker of consciousness was 
passing through the wounded chap- 
lain; he heard the words and was 
pleased that somebody aboard was 
praying. 



«r 



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128 





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To This Earthman on the Planet "Solaria" An 
Uptlad G ir l Was fnr. More Dangerous Than jgp- 



m t 



naked 



SUN 



Isaac Asimov 



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